On Thursday, government ministers announced that they had agreed to give NIS 500,000 ($160,000) as “first relief” to the relatives of the 45 individuals who had been killed the year before in a crush at Lag B’Omer celebrations on Mount Meron in northern Israel.
The Government must Yet Approve the Plan to Provide Relief to the Relatives of The Victims.
“The anguish cannot be eradicated, but we will do all in our capacities to provide the fullest response for the families,” stated Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar in a joint statement.
The 45 families in Israel and the Jewish diaspora have suffered a huge loss that can never be replaced. They demanded that the government do whatever it takes to prevent similar incidents in the future and provide financial support to the victims’ families. The majority of the victims were Israeli, although there were also American and other foreign Jews among them.
“The calamity that transpired in Meron is of a national magnitude, and the feeling of tremendous loss and pain are experienced first and foremost by the families,” Liberman said. We believe that the plan for financial aid that we have developed is critical.
In April 2021, a calamity occurred at a religious site in Meron despite repeated warnings that the place was dangerous for the anticipated crowd size.
On April 30, thousands of people attending Lag B’Omer celebrations at the burial of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai flooded over a tiny passageway, resulting in the disaster. Some others slipped and fell on the walkway, then down the stairs at the end, crushing those below them to death in a devastating cascading effect.
Over the course of the holiday celebrations, Mount Meron played host to around 100,000 guests, the vast majority of whom were ultra-Orthodox Jews. The stampede killed more people than any other peacetime incident in Israel.
The fatal crowding has been attributed to a lack of crowd control and poorly constructed pathways and ramparts. Mount Meron was a massive property overseen by several separate ultra-Orthodox organisations, which made regulation and organisation challenging.
Political Disagreements and Finger-Pointing have Hampered Relief Efforts.
The previous administration fought off calls to establish an official state commission of investigation into the matter, but the new administration has complied. The group is still hard at work. There is currently no estimated completion date for the inquiry’s final report, while preliminary results were released in November.
Sa’ar’s statement that the issue should be settled by government decision rather than legislation led to a Knesset committee delaying an opposition measure for compensation for the relatives of the victims earlier this month. Sa’ar claimed he had pushed for a compensation budget as part of a cabinet decision after speaking with Liberman.
This month, a senior police officer testified that Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai had ignored his warnings about the site’s impending overpopulation.
A retired police commander blamed Shabtai for the tragic stampede back in October.
In the previous month, Nachman Ash, director-general of the Health Ministry, had informed the panel that no government agency was willing to take responsibility for enforcing COVID-19 policies.