The Israel Police opened an investigation on Sunday into sexual-assault allegations against ZAKA rescue organization founder and chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav, following an exposé on Thursday in the Haaretz newspaper.

Meshi Zahav, 61, denied all accusations from alleged victims, including men, women and children.

He announced on Friday that he would forfeit receipt of the Israel Prize and step down from ZAKA, according to multiple press reports.

The highly respected head of the famous international organization of volunteers made headlines in January when in the course of a single month, he lost his brother and both of his parents, the latter to COVID-19—sparking an appeal on his part to fellow haredim to adhere to Israel’s coronavirus restrictions.

Meshi Zahav told the media that the accusations against him are part of a vendetta by extremist haredi elements, adding that he doesn’t know how he’ll “repair the damage to [his] reputation.”

JNS

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