Tuesday, August 18, 2020

From Maariv Magazine--A Unique Unit: The Israel Dog Unit (IDU) is in danger of closing after twenty years of activity


A Unique Unit: The Israel Dog Unit (IDU) is in danger of closing after twenty years of activity

Twenty years after its establishment, the Israel Dog Unit, which deals with finding and rescuing missing persons and is funded exclusively by donations, is in danger of closing down, just when COVID-19 has caused more missing person cases than ever. 

The dog unit 

The IDU in action (Photo: IDU PR)

“The second you find someone alive - it's a feeling that's hard to describe, like you’re in  a different league, "describes Moshe Binyamini, IDU volunteer. He and his friends' harbor a deep sense of commitment to the IDU’s mission to find and rescue missing persons. “That one moment justifies all the days and days without sleep, the sweating and physical exertion,  sleeping in the field or on the street, the weeks of  suffering from mosquito and tick bites. All the suffering of the search is dwarfed by that one second of the find.” 


After twenty years in operation, the unit is in danger of closing due to lack of funding. Despite its successes, no government body has adopted the IDU as a full-fledged organization - it remains registered as a civilian NPO. A few months since the COVID-19 outbreak, the demand for their services is skyrocketing, and financial resources have dwindled; members of the unit have recently launched an emergency crowdfunding campaign, "Four-Legged Lifesavers", visible on their website. They hope to reach a goal of NIS 520,000 to cover their debts and continue their current activities.

Training in the dog unit (Photo: Aharon Streicher)Training in the dog unit (Photo: IDU PR)


 "Not a day goes by without a call for help," explains Mike Ben Yaakov, founder and commander of the IDU. Mike immigrated from the United States at the age of eighteen as an ardent Zionist. “It could be a lost Alzheimer's patient, children with special needs, a person with suicidal tendencies or a severe mental background, and even a regularly healthy person who got dehydrated on a long hike. We are always ready to go out into the field with our dogs. From time to time other emergency services will work alongside us: the police, the army, the Magen David Adom and other volunteer rescue organizations. We work with everyone. We were even called for cases of senior officials, who had gone missing for all sorts of reasons. The state understands our capabilities and needs them, but refuses to officially recognize and fund us."


The IDU was established in 2000 against the background of the many terrorist attacks during the days of the second intifada, Ben-Yaakov dreamed of a unit of volunteer dog handlers from Israel and abroad assisting in ongoing security activities. After a decade, though, search and rescue has become the unit’s primary activity. "There are police, fire brigades and rescue units, so why do they need us?", says Ben Yaakov. “Because we realized that there is a severe shortage of knowledge and manpower and a lack of understanding of the field. A decade ago I was called to help improve that situation, and we helped out a bit on a fully volunteer basis. One day we were called to look for a young man. I arrived at the scene and saw police and Oketz (the IDF’s canine unit); there was a large map set up and lots of people looking, but there was no tidy command center, and the professionals searched for just a few hours before packing up and going home. In the field, a cadaver dog was used to search for a person who was supposed to be alive; each dog has a different specialization, and that search should have been conducted with a searching or tracking dog instead. I realized that something needed to change. The next day at five in the morning we arrived with a suitable dog and found the missing person, deep in the brush." Today, the unit employs about three hundred volunteers and fifty rescue dogs in eight branches around the country. Another three hundred dogs have been trained by them and stationed as guard dogs in various localities. The volunteers come from different backgrounds and are scattered throughout the country. Their "hard core" contains about fifty people who work mainly in the Judea and Samaria area and at the unit's base in Kfar Tapuach. Rescue dog in the kennel unit (Photo: Dovrat Yachal)Rescue dog in the IDU (Photo: IDU PR)

Binyamini, 22, who has been volunteering at the unit for six years, gets excited before every deployment. "I came to the unit after hearing about a guy who was missing in the Jerusalem forest, and they were looking for him for a week," he says. "I decided to join at first for the action and the chance to help people.  After a while, I already knew the people and the kennel, so I stayed around. I get to go out for many calls and exhibitions, and I’ve been in hundreds of rescues. There are periods with multiple calls a day, and there are periods where there are no calls at all. The search that moved me the most was that of a missing woman from Ashdod, a woman we had been looking for for several months.Our initial search  found nothing, so we returned  every few weeks to search another sector. After six months, we received a call on Saturday evening about another missing person from Ashdod, a young man who went for a walk and hadn’t returned.  We searched on Friday all night, and in the morning we suddenly found a skull that later turned out to be that woman's. At that very moment we received information from the police that the guy was healthy and intact. We came looking for him and found the answer to our unsolved mystery instead. It was very exciting." Binyamini lives in Jerusalem and comes to the kennel about four times a week on average. The volunteers in the kennel live there in dormitory conditions and go out to events in between dog training. "I’ve participated in hundreds of rescues, but unfortunately I have yet to find anyone alive," says Binyamini. "It’s frustrating, for the most part, but we take comfort in the knowledge that we will at least bring the victim to a proper burial. A search begins with a lot of action - all the units arrive and set up their command centers, but then it starts to get discouraging and unpleasant. There are no words to describe the moment when you find someone.  You experience a sense of transcendence - someone is alive thanks to you. You burn with joy; there is insane energy and immense satisfaction among the other volunteers. In my opinion, even if the organization reaches a state financially and physically that it will not be able to respond to events, that spirit will still remain; if there is no money for vehicles, we will walk, but there will be no situation where a call for help is heard and ignored. We will respond to any alert, even if it means taking public transit."Training at the ruins site of the dog unit (Photo: Dovrat Yachal)Training to rescue victims from rubble. (Photo: IDU PR)

Ravid, 27, immigrated from Canada about seven years ago as a lone soldier and lives at the base of the unit in Tapuah, experienced the transcendent moment of locating a living person and rescuing him. "I found two people, one alive and one not," he says. “I found a man a year and a half ago. He was fired from his job and left home. We received a report that there was a chance of suicide. We started looking in the field. One dog from the unit identified a small grove with an abandoned house and signalled to me to go check it. I went in and found the man lying on the floor in complete unconsciousness, next to bags of pills and a bottle of vodka. Luckily, he vomited both up and thus survived. I did not notice that building at first, but the dog dragged me there in a fit of excitement. The man was a little bit overweight , and the paramedics were unable to lift him, so we called our strongest volunteers and they carried him to the road on a stretcher. After saving a person, you can feel like you’re on a ‘high’; I felt moved to the depths of my soul. I had found someone after three days of searching; our general rule is that a person survives for up to three days in the field. I found him at the last possible moment, just before we packed up. Not everyone gets to save lives. "The dog unit (Photo: Dovrat Yachal)The IDU working alongside the INP (Photo: IDU PR)


A Better Country

In the absence of an ordinary budget, unit members are in continual demand. The organization's call center phone number is none other than Mike's own private phone, and when there is no vehicle to go out into the field, he must find one himself. "Looking for a person takes a lot of time," says Ben Yaakov. “A search sometimes takes a long time. We have a big heart and are willing to stay in the field until the missing person is found. The rest go home after a few hours, but our volunteers are the crazy people who sleep in the field for a few days and will do anything to complete a rescue. Legally, the police are responsible for missing persons, but all they do is open a case and send a flyer online with a photo and description; they never actually go searching in the field. The Israel National Police (INP) is not built for it, either in terms of professional capabilities or resources. I do not see policemen sleeping in the woods for several days. There are a lot of cases where the police ask us to leave as well, but we refuse; they may say ‘we’ve searched there already’, but we end up finding the person in that same area. This was the case a few years ago with Meir Levy, a money changer from Bat Yam, who was murdered by a man who shot him and threw the body near the factories in Bat Yam. We sat down with the murdered man's family; we wanted to search in a certain area, but the cops said they had already searched there and asked us to stay clear of it. I  went there  despite them and  we found him within seconds. The family did not understand how we knew where to look. "


                The coronavirus crisis, as mentioned, only exacerbated the situation, and the demand for rescues increased drastically; fears of suicide are on the rise due to the strains of quarantine, and economic pressures are felt by both rescuers and victims alike. The donations that had flowed from foundations and organizations in Israel and abroad have stopped coming. "If I need twenty dogs with handlers, and I have a budget for three, that is the difference between life and death, between bringing someone’s bones to burial and leaving them in the field forever.” Bram Milo (Photo: Private Photography)Bram S. (Photo: IDU PR)


“We have subsisted on donations so far,” says Ben-Yaakov, “But recently those donations have stopped, and right when I need to invest more in dogs, vehicles and fuel for our missions. We work in full cooperation with everyone - army, fire brigade, rescue units. Everyone helps us because they know we are the leading operational arm in the field of missing people; only the state ignores us. We may not be a national institution, but we are the most effective operators in the field, combining dogs, drones, and our proprietary incident management application. We are always the first to respond, although we have no governmental budget; indeed, other services with budgets of millions seek our help. It does not make sense that we do not receive even a minimal budget. " 


"Without the IDU, I do not think I would have stayed in Israel," says Bram Settenbrino 19, who immigrated to Israel two years ago. In his very first search, he found a missing person. "It strengthened my resolve to stay in the unit and the country," he says. "The unit is like a family for me,  helping me in the Ministry of the Interior, providing housing, and taking care of everything I need. During one of the searches, the son of the missing person, who was the father of five children, joined me and it was sad to see him shouting: 'Dad, Dad'. To this day we have not found his father, but we occasionally continue the search because we’ve made it a mission of ours to do so. When one sees the mental upheaval of a family with a member missing, it is impossible to do otherwise. I am ready to sleep in the field for a month and a half and make any other sacrifices necessary to find someone. Israel is a better country because of the IDU." 

        To join the IDU or to donate to the emergency crowdfunding campaign to raise urgently needed funds to keep the unit 
afloat please visit and forward the link to the emergency crowd funding campaign.

IDU Headquarters welcomes special needs camp, "Alei Siyach" , at the IDU base in Kfar Tappuach

IDU Headquarters welcomes special needs camp, "Alei Siyach" , at the IDU base in Kfar Tapuach

  This morning (Tuesday) a special dog show was held at the IDU base for dozens of people with special needs.

 The dogs and handlers that performed, are used to helping missing people and their families, when going out to search every day or two.Today, they have managed to put smiles on the faces of children and adults with special needs who suffer doubly during the Corona which imposes on them long days without activity that they are used to experiencing every year during the summer vacation.

 IDU Commander Mike Ben Yaakov said:
 "We treat such events with reverence no less than operations to locate missing persons or prevent terrorist attacks with the four-legged lifesavers. What an inspiration to see the interaction between the dogs and the guys, and the joy that breaks boundaries in its wake."

A particularly moving moment occurred when one of the trainees asked for the right to speak from the host of the show, and showered greetings on the IDU, its volunteers and its staff.

To join the IDU or to donate to the emergency crowdfunding campaign to raise urgently needed funds to keep the unit 
afloat please visit and forward the link to the emergency crowd funding campaign.

Monday, August 17, 2020

IDU volunteer beats corona, makes aliyah and seeks to join IDF

 IDU Volunteer beats Corona, makes Aliyah 

and strives to join IDF

        Bram Settenbrino’s journey to Israel has been anything but boring. In less than two years Bram, who hails
 from Passaic, New Jersey managed to join the IDU (Israel Dog Unit), an elite Israeli civilian K9 unit, together 
with his SAR dog, Danna, finding two missing people. How many 19 year-old American kids could boast rescuing or 
recovering two missing persons? If that was not enough, Bram’s impressive finds came after police and other 
rescue units surrendered and retired frustrated from the searches, telling him and the other IDU volunteers, 
“go home, the missing person is not here, you are wasting your time”. Bram accomplished all of this while 
on off days from his pre-military academy yeshiva studies at Mechinat Keshet Yehudah in the Golan Heights 
and taking care of his elderly grandparents in Jerusalem.


        Like many other IDU volunteers, Bram is a passionate Zionist, with a burning love for the Jewish people and a 
special sense of calling with the courage of his convictions. The IDU has plenty of dedicated young Jews from North 
America, who left the good-life of comforts in the west to immigrate to Israel and to engage in meaningful life-saving
activities with Israel’s lead Search and Rescue outfit, where they get all kinds of training which they put to good use
once they join the IDF, and which gives them an edge over their Israeli counterparts who compete to enter into 
Israel’s finest combat units. However, one thing that sets Bram apart from some of his fellow “IDUniks” was the fact 
that he contracted corona as “Patient #260” in Israel, and spent more than a month in a “Corona Hotel” recuperating. 
This provided a special opportunity, as Bram and the IDU offered to send his sniffing service dog, Danna, in with him,
 where they could commence trial corona diagnosis by sniffing dogs. This proposal was made to Litzman the former
 minister of health. Despite this unique opportunity and a detailed program which was submitted to Litzman personally
 and which was backed up by world class dog experts from around the world, the proposal went unanswered. Who
 knows how many lives could have been saved if the early pilot would have been adopted.

        None of this discouraged Bram from rushing to Israel’s Ministry of Interior to formally immigrate to Israel in his 
quest to move onto his next set of battlegrounds in the IDF.

        Bram’s face beams with happiness as he shows off his Teudat Zehut – Israeli ID card which he received last 
week. He will soon be a Chayal Boded, a lone soldier in the IDF as he continues to live in the Israel Dog Unit base in 
Tapuach in the Shomron, hoping to continue to save lives with his dog, Danna during furloughs from the IDF, like 
other lone soldiers in the unit, who participated in IDU operations before, during and after their IDF service.

To join the IDU or to donate to the emergency crowdfunding campaign to raise urgently needed funds to keep the unit 
afloat please visit and forward the link to the emergency crowd funding campaign.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Emergency Crowd Funding Campaign for IDU - Israel Dog Unit


                                                  IDU Needs You – 

Support the Israel Dog Unit’s emergency crowd-funding campaign:


or via PayPal:

The Israel Dog unit is now launching an emergency fundraising drive to save the unit and raise the necessary resources to continue its holy, life-saving work to find and rescue missing persons and to quell terror attacks with the use of specially trained search and rescue and security dogs.

The IDU is the number one search and rescue outfit in the Land of Israel finding and rescuing dozens of missing people, often, long after the official government agencies and rescue units have long abandoned the search. IDU has also gained the respect of other professional security forces due to its success in the foiling of many potentially fatal terrorist attacks.

The IDU operates multiple bases throughout Israel with hundreds of volunteers and dogs on call to carry out defensive security missions throughout the year, from the Northern Lebanese border to the Egyptian and Gaza borders; providing security dogs and free training to dozens of Jewish towns, kibbutzim and “settlements” on both sides of the Green Line.

The Kennel Campus in Kfar Tapuach houses several dozen volunteers, providing dormitories and mess-hall dining facilities. The Tapuach campus also serves as a training center for IDU personnel, trainers and security personnel also offering open seminars by world-class international dog experts who conduct working-dog seminars throughout the year.  

The IDU has been hit hard by the Coronavirus. On the one hand, more people are in need of IDU’s life saving security and Search and Rescue services, while on the other hand many of our donors are no longer in a position to help sponsor our activities due to their own financial woes, brought on by the economic corona fallout. Clearly, we need to expand our support base so that more people know about the holy work of the IDU.

For the first time, after more than two decades of existence, the IDU is desperately reaching out to former volunteers, past and present donors and to many families of missing people or victims of terrorist attacks who have directly or indirectly benifitted from IDU services. The IDU was there for you, doing everything within and beyond its abilities to save so many Jewish lives. Now, it is time to save the IDU, so that the IDU will be there for you and all of the people of Israel tomorrow.

Please send this message out to as many pro-Israel friends, relatives and supporters as you can. Add your own personalized pitch and help the IDU during this critical time.

To make a contribution by paypal:


or send a generous contribution by mail to Michlelet Magen Eretz Israel – POBox 992 Jerusalem, Israel                   

Secure credit card donation

Direct bank transfer

Direct wire transfer to our account "Michllelet Magen Eretz Yisrael":

IBAN IL40-0122-8600-0000-0063-352 Name: MICHLELET MAGEN ERETZ YISRAEL


re internal wire it is bank 12 poalim

branch 286 ariel acct 063352 for michllelet Magen Eretz Yisrael

To find out how to earmark your contribution to receive a 501c3 tax deductible contribution, or for further inquiry, please call 011972544876709

Or email to mikecanine@gmail.com

If you understand and read Hebrew please visit our website www.israeldogunit.com

Or the landing page for this campaign:


With Love of Israel,

Yekutiel (Mike) Ben Yakov

some videos about the unit: