Disaster has overtaken the annual Lag Ba’Omer festivities at Meron in northern Israel. 45 people were crushed to death last night at the ceremony at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai on Mount Meron. More than 150 people were injured, eighteen of them severely. The Ministry of Religious Services has announced that the incident is over, and has called on the public not to come to Meron.
The incident reportedly occurred as a result of some people who were leaving the crowded site slipping on steps, which made those behind them fall and cause a human cascade, crushing people to death. At the time, the leader of the Toldot Aharon Hassidic sect had just lit the traditional bonfire in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai.
An eyewitness, Moshe Lavi, told Walla! News: “there was pressure, a lot of people. I left straight after the bonfire was lit. There was natural and normal crowding. They tried to regulate it. At the exit, which is rather narrow, someone slipped, and they started to fall on him.”
The police report that the evacuation of the injured is complete, and that they are removing the crowd from the site. Because of the load on cellular networks, many people were unable to contact their relatives taking part in the event. Ambulances and six IDF rescue helicopters evacuated the injured to Ziv Hospital in nearby Zfat (Tzafed), to Rambam Hospital in Haifa and to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.
Hassidic groups in the US have reportedly cancelled Lag Ba’Omer events and are holding prayers for the injured at Meron.
President Reuven Rivlin said last night in response to the disaster: “I have been following the reports from Meron in great shock, and I pray for the recovery of the injured. God please heal them.”
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on April 30, 2021
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