Tragedy brings out the best and the worst – an Op-Ed

May 5, 2021 by David Cumin
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The Har Meron disaster is one of the worst peacetime tragedies in modern Israel’s history. There are at least 45 people confirmed dead and over 150 more injured.

Dr David Cumin

Our thoughts are with the survivors and we wish family & friends of the deceased be comforted among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Israel was quick to establish a national day of mourning for the incident but even quicker were the reactions of professional and laypeople around the scene. Magen David Adom (the Red Star of David) has learned to deal with mass casualty events, sadly, over many years but even experienced first responders were shocked at what they encountered.

And Israelis of all backgrounds came together to help. There were Arab Israelis who, even during Ramadan, organised food and drink for those stranded on the mountain; and Israelis in other cities turned out in force to donate blood.

I am always amazed by how hard some things in Israel can be (like dealing with services such as banking) and how rude and indifferent many people appear in general interactions; but as soon as there is someone in need, it’s as if the whole neighbourhood comes to their aid. The Sabra – tough on the outside, but delicate and sweet on the inside – is the perfect description used for native Israelis.

I am also, in a much different way, amazed at how much hate there is for Jews and Israelis. In the wake of the disaster, while bodies were still being counted and transferred to hospital, a Twitter hashtag celebrating the incident was trending. Tens of thousands of people were apparently happy that dozens of Jews were dead.

And, this time, there can be no excuse that they were ‘only against Zionists’ – as if there is any moral position where it’s OK to revel in thoughts of still-warm human corpses – because the Jews who gathered on Mt Meron were predominantly of an ultra-orthodox sect that opposes Zionism.

That fact won’t stop the haters. And neither will it stop the support given by those close and far by the greater number of people.

Dr David Cumin is co-director of the Israel Institute of New Zealand, among other roles.

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