In what can be called a bizarre outcome, a festival in Israel ended in a catastrophic stampede. The event was attended by tens of thousands Ultra-Orthodox Jews. According to recent reports about 45 people have lost their lives in the tragic incident. With over 150 injured this has turned out to be Israel’s worst public disaster.
How the Event Unfolded
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The stampede began when a large number of people thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage during the event at Mount Meron. As per the latest video evidence, people began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs. The footage also showed the police barricades prevented the people from moving away from the area quickly.
The stampede took place during the celebration of Lag BaOmar at Mount Meron in northern Israel. This event marked one of the first large gatherings after Israel lifted ban on gatherings due to the COVID – 19 pandemic. This was facilitated due to the Country’s highly successful vaccination campaign.
The festival is celebrated to pay respect to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century sage who is believed to be buried at Mount Meron. The festival generally draws a large number of ultra-orthodox Jews every year. According to some estimates, nearly 100,000 people gathered at Mount Meron this year.
Reaction from Leaders and Communities
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu declared a day of national mourning on observing at the scale of disaster. He expressed his condolences while referring to the stampede as one of the “greatest disasters” to befall on Israel. The Prime Minister was faced with angry crowds jeering at him during his visit as they blamed his government and the police for the disaster.
Witnesses of the stampede, accused police of putting up barriers. These barriers they argued prevented people from leaving through exits that remained open on previous years. After the tragedy, further rescue and identification efforts are underway.
“The picture is slowly becoming clearer,” Kivi Hess, a municipal spokesman, told Channel 13 TV. Meanwhile, president, Reuven Rivlin, lit 45 memorial candles to honor the dead.
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