‘Sometimes we cry,’ says IDF colonel deployed at site of Florida condo collapse
Col. Golan Vach says Surfside building collapse is one of the most difficult situations he has witnessed. Meanwhile, Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun, who is coordinating supply efforts, says “We’re just seeing an incredible outpouring of compassion and a desire to help.”
| June 30, 2021
IDF Col. Golan Vach, who heads a 15-person search and rescue team from Israel that has joined others in Florida, said on Tuesday that he feels the emotional weight of the scenes of devastation at the Surfside condominium collapse near Miami Beach.
“Sometimes we cry. It’s natural. We are working together. We talk every night… We share and it gives us strength,” Vach, commander of the IDF’s National Rescue Unit, said.
Vach says the Surfside collapse – which happened last Thursday and has killed at least 11 people with about 150 still missing as of Monday – is one of the most difficult and complicated he has ever seen because the floors of the 12-story condo have collapsed on top of one another, like a stack of pancakes.
The IDF rescuers include about 10 reservist officers from the Home Front Command, along with Foreign Ministry personnel, the IDF said in a statement.
When it comes to collapsed buildings, there is a cadre of international rescue workers willing to cross borders at a moment’s notice.
A Mexican rescue team is also at the Surfside disaster site. The Israelis come trained by war, whereas the Mexicans have experience with natural disasters.
The cooperation reflects the international nature of the Miami area, which is home to both Jewish and Latin American diasporas.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun, a graduate of the Ohr Torah Stone network’s Straus-Amiel Institute, is providing help of a different kind. Yeshurun has set up a response center to help families directly affected by the collapse which has attracted people from all walks of life, of all religious faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities.
Since early Thursday, the rabbi and a team of volunteers have been providing a network of services, consolidating and centralizing collection of supplies and serving as a drop-off point and distribution headquarters. The supplies are then trucked to the Surfside reunification center, where the families of the unaccounted for are staying, as well as to local synagogues located near the site.
“The nature of the collapse has been particularly challenging for all involved. We are forced to face a reality where there is less and less hope of finding survivors and we need to be prepared and plan ahead for the likelihood of dozens of funerals,” Yeshurun said sadly.
Yeshurun, outgoing president of the rabbinic association of the greater Miami Jewish Federation and a National Council member of AIPAC, serves as the rabbi of Skylake Synagogue in North Miami Beach, with a community of about 300 families.
“Everyone is helping, donating, extending themselves in ways I cannot believe. I’ve never seen such solidarity and unity,” said Yeshurun.
“It brought me to tears to see everyone working together. They’re all coming here – men, women, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and no one is asking about anyone else’s religion or party affiliation. We’re just seeing an incredible outpouring of compassion and a desire to help. These past few days we’ve shown the world that we can let all our differences give way to brotherhood and love and this is a tribute to the greatness of this Miami community!”