MOUNT MERON, Israel – Calls accountability following a catastrophic disaster that killed 45 people at a sanctuary in northern Israel on Saturday over questions about the misconduct of a religious leadership government. And the police
The stampede on Mount Meron early Friday during the annual pilgrimage, one of Israel’s worst civil disasters, was forecast for years on the alert from local politicians, journalists and inspectors. The land declared that this place had become a death trap.
On Saturday, Israeli news media reported that a top police officer blamed the Ministry of Religious Services for signing a security procedure earlier this week.
But pilgrims are expected to arrive in Mount Meron after sunset on Saturday for a second day, a police spokesman said no additional precautions have been taken to secure the site since the stampede. But further assessments will be made in the evening. Three police officers at the scene said they had not received crowd-restriction instructions since Friday’s death.
Politicians and political commentators have accused the police and other agencies of taking part in the tragedy. One of those under scrutiny was Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana, who oversees police and rescuers and took part in the pilgrimage on their own.
The Israeli government has been blamed for over a decade for ignoring mountain safety issues in order to avoid Orthodox Jews attending the annual celebrations known for Hebrew as a Hebrew name Seven of the last nine Israeli-ruled alliances relied on support from the Special Orthodox Party.
Referring to the Minister of Public Security Anchelfoffer, a commenter and political writer, in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Ohana would not consider – not even a minute – to limit his arrival at Meron’s hills. And angry at the special person – the Orthodox politician who controls the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Prime Minister. “
“But his ancestors didn’t consider it either,” he added.
Netanyahu is now struggling to form a new coalition government that will need the backing of two special Orthodox parties to have a chance to win a parliamentary majority.
Morris Chen, a senior police officer, said on Friday night that police measures were not influenced by political interference.
Public Security Minister Ohana posted on Twitter that the police had done their best.
“It has to be and will be a very detailed, real, and realistic inquiry that will discover how and why this happened,” he later said in the video, adding, “From the bottom of my heart, I would like to share. In the sorrow of The family who lost the most precious thing of all and asked the wounded to recover quickly and fully. ”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit assigned an independent watchdog to investigate police claims, assessing the allegations of police negligence in the formation of the disaster.
But on Saturday, state broadcaster Kan said the watchdog was reluctant to oversee the investigation due to the role of officials and other entities besides the police.
Hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews visit Mount Meron each spring for the Lag b’Omer Festival, in honor of the death of a second-century Jewish mage Rabbi. Shimon Bajo Chai, which has a cemetery on the mountain.
The crowd was banned in 2020, but this year about 100,000 people have returned after successful vaccinations that have returned most Israeli lives to normal.
The event has long been called for to limit the number of pilgrims allowed to attend. The site is a narrow, sloping walkway and a small, cramped plaza where visitors are warned that it is not suitable for crowds.
The disaster kicked off early Friday morning as crowds gathered in a small stage beside the tomb to watch the lights of several ceremonies. Thousands of people then attempted to get out of the narrow slope that eventually was connected via short staircases to a narrow tunnel.
As they approached the steps to the tunnel, some in front slid on the metal floor of the steep slope, Witnesses said. This creates a sudden blockage by trapping hundreds of them at the bottom. As more and more pilgrims left the above ceremonies, they began to trample down those below.
In 2008 and 2011, state regulators, a government watchdog, warned that the site corridors were too narrow to accommodate large crowds. The local council leader said he had tried to shut it down at least three times.
In 2013, the chief of police in northern Israel warned colleagues of the potential for a fatal accident, and in 2018, the editor of the major Haredi magazine said it was a recipe for disaster.
On Friday night, current representatives of the state regulator said the lack of a consistent leadership structure in place made it more difficult to enforce appropriate safety systems.
Parts of the website fall under the jurisdiction of four competing private religious institutions, all of which are against state interference.
There was “one major offense,” Liora Shimon, deputy director of control, told Kan. “It is true that the site is not the sole management responsibility.”
Yossi Amsalem, a 38-year-old tragedy survivor, said chaotic facility management has contributed to the attention. But did not blame any particular group Mr Amsalem said the corridor in which the collision occurred was used for two-way traffic, making it difficult to move.
“The path should go up or down,” Am Salem said from a hospital bed in Safed, a city across the valley from Meron. “This should not be confusing.”
The tragedy evoked sympathy and solidarity from religious and secular divisions in Israel. Health officials said 2,200 Israelis donated blood to help the injured on Mount Meron. The flag will be flown by half the staff on Sunday at the official state building, as the country marks National Day of Mourning.
But the disaster also sparked yet another debate about secular-religious tensions in Israel and about the amount of autonomy should be given to some of the ultra-Orthodox communities. Which opposes state control
While many ultra-Orthodox Jews play an active role in Israeli lives, some reject the concept of Zionism, while others deny involvement in the military or Israeli task forces and oppose state interference in their education systems.
Tensions soared during the epidemic when parts of the community angered the world’s citizens by ignoring state-enforced coronavirus regulations, even though the disease devastated their ranks at higher rates than other populations.
For the survivors of the Meron disaster, attention has become the latest in recent battles and setbacks, rather than the post-epidemic joys back to normalcy and traditions.
“It’s been a tough year,” said 22-year-old Moshe Helfgot, whose right leg was broken in two places in the crush, “and there are still more disasters now.”
Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Jonathan Rosen contributed reporting.