Day of national mourning in Israel after the Mount Meron tragedy that left 45 dead

Day of national mourning in Israel after the Mount Meron tragedy that left 45 dead

Flags at half mast this Sunday in Israel, on a national day of mourning after the death of 45 people, including children, in a human avalanche during a pilgrimage that brought together thousands of Orthodox Jews.

“Disaster”, “Tragedy”, “Government failure”: this Sunday, the front pages of the first newspapers published in Israel since the human avalanche that occurred on Friday morning in Mount Meron (north) were black – no press on Saturdays, Shabbat break.

The first funerals took place on Friday afternoon, after what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “one of the greatest disasters” in the history of the Jewish state since its creation in 1948.

After a break for Shabbat, the funeral services resumed on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the authorities announced this Sunday that they had completed the identification of the deceased, among whom there are four Americans and two Canadians.

Whose fault is it?

“Around midnight the identification of the 45 victims was completed (…) 44 bodies were delivered (to the families) for burial and the last one will take place during the day”, the Ministry of Health indicated in a statement.

“A disaster of this magnitude requires a complex analysi, we understand the request of families to be quick, and we act in that sense respecting professionalism”, said Dr. Chen Kugel, director of the Abu Kabir National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv.

The blue and white flags with the Star of David were hoisted at half mast this Sunday in government buildings on the occasion of the national mourning, while funerals multiplied, especially in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as families they fulfilled the Shiv’ah, a period of seven days of mourning.

On Saturday night, the inhabitants of Tel Aviv, a metropolis on the Mediterranean coast, organized a first ceremony in honor of the victims, lighting candles.

“It affects me personally because I come from an ultra-Orthodox home. Until eight years ago I was going on a pilgrimage to Merón. My parents were present but they left an hour before ”the tragedy, Rachel, 28, told AFP.

Yael, another young Israeli commented: “I made the pilgrimage for twenty years. I suffered the experience of an avalanche. I never returned.”

The questions do not stop: What really happened? Whose fault is it? Could it have been avoided? On Friday, ultra-Orthodox Jews made a pilgrimage to the place again – after not doing so in 2020 due to the pandemic – when the drama occurred.

A minister on the bench

Around 12.50 am, amid the hubbub, a mass of people left the place, which required crossing a narrow corridor, which served as a funnel, causing the tragedy, witnesses told AFP.

Young people and teenagers were mostly crushed by the panicky crowd. The Chief of Police for Northern Israel, Shimon Lavi, took “responsibility” for the tragedy.

But, the debate is not closed on this matter. For years it has been noted that security was random. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana also took “responsibility” without accepting “blame”.

But, it is the Minister of Transport, Miri Regev, close to Netanyahu, who is on the bench, according to the press, for having chartered buses to allow many Orthodox to go on pilgrimage.

The first rally since the beginning of the pandemic, with the country almost entirely vaccinated and misguided, ended in tragedy.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau suggested that in future this celebration “be staggered for a week” to avoid crowds.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.