Dozens killed, injured in apparent stampede during Lag B’Omer in Meron

April 30, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Israel is in shock and dismay following the death of 45 and the injuring of some 150 people during Lag BaOmer festivities at Mount Meron on Thursday, one of the worst disasters in the country’s history.

United Hatzalah volunteers respond to a mass casualty incident in Meron during Lag B’Omer on April 30, 2021. Source: United Hatzalah/Twitter.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish worshipers arrived at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to celebrate Lag BaOmer and participate in the traditional bonfire lighting.

At about 1 am, the throngs bottlenecked at one of the entrances to one of the celebration complexes and hundreds of people were crushed, many suffocating under the mass and the intense heat.

The police, MDA, ZAKA, United Hatzalah and IDF forces worked through the night to evacuate the wounded and tend to the dead.

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yehuda Gottleib, who was one of the first responders at the scene of the mass casualty incident in Meron, recalled that “when I saw dozens of people fall on top of one another during the collapse. A large number of them were crushed and lost consciousness. I immediately requested backup from the on-site dispatchers and told them to send as many additional volunteers and medical personnel as they could to the scene and that we had dozens of injuries.”

Vice President of the Volunteer Department of United Hatzalah Lazar Hyman who was at the scene said that “this is one of the worst tragedies that I have ever experienced. I have not seen anything like this since I entered into the field of emergency medicine back in 2000.”

CEO of United Hatzalah Eli Pollack, who ran the on-site dispatch center during the incident said that “this is a very tragic and unusual incident that sadly cost many people their lives. Dozens of our volunteers performed CPR on the victims who were crushed, while others treated more than 100 people who were injured with varying degrees of severity. Our ambulance teams transported the injured to Ziv Hospital in Tzefat, Rambam Hospital in Haifa, and the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.”

Others were evacuated by MDA and IDF helicopters to hospitals in the center of the country.

The names of the victims have yet to be published, and several have yet to be identified, but it is known that the victims include children, and possibly members of the same family.

It is unclear what caused the terrible disaster, but witnesses claim that a police checkpoint that attempted to slow the flow of worshippers toward one of the complexes may have caused the pressure in the crowd that led to the stampede.

Commander of the police’s northern district Shimon Lavie took responsibility for the incident, and Internal Affairs announced that it has launched an investigation, alongside the police’s own probe into the incident.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at Mont Meron on Friday morning to be briefed on site about the catastrophe.

“A terrible disaster on Mount Meron. We all pray for the healing of the injured. I want to strengthen the rescue forces operating in the area,” he tweeted.

The country is now preparing for dozens of funerals and towns and cities across the country which will take place on Friday, Saturday night and Sunday.

 

 

In Australia, co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Alex Ryvchin commented:  “This is an overwhelming tragedy and one of the worst disasters Israel has seen in peacetime. To see a festival of celebration result in loss of life on such a scale is heartbreaking. The Australian Jewish community joins the people of Israel in mourning. We pray for the recovery of the injured and for the souls of the deceased.”

Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council said: “We are deeply shaken to learn of the tragic disaster at yesterday’s Lag B’Omer event in Israel. We mourn those who have lost their lives and send our heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and the people of Israel. We wish strength and courage to those who have suffered injuries and wish them a speedy recovery. We send our gratitude to the first responders and medical staff involved.”

Video by Adiel Stern/TPS

The Zionist Federation of Australia’s President Jeremy Leibler stated: “This news is simply terrible. Our hearts go out to the dozens of family who will spend this Shabbat in deepest mourning. May the Almighty comfort them among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Israel and the Diaspora are an extended family, and we are all hurting today”, concluded Mr Leibler.

The ZFA also paid tribute to the quick and professional response of Israel’s emergency services, who quickly gathered from across the country.

Co-presidents David Knoll and Brian Samuels said the Union for Progressive Judaism is greatly saddened to hear of the loss of life and many injuries suffered at the Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mount Meron last night.

They said: “At a time when Jewish communities are accustomed to celebrating joyfully, experiencing such a tragedy causes pain for the entire Jewish community worldwide.

Our Jewish tradition maintains kol yisrael areivim zeh ba zeh. All Jews are interconnected/responsible for one another.

May the injured be blessed with a speedy recovery, and the families of the deceased be comforted.”

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, president of the Rabbinical Association of Australasia told J-Wire: “The Rabbinical Association of Australasia joins world Jewry in expressing its profound shock and deep sorrow following the indescribable tragedy that occurred in Meron. We pray for the families of those who lost loved ones and for a full and speedy recovery for those who were injured.”

 

JNS/TPS/J-Wire

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