Major Jewish Group ‘Pained’ Over Mass Casualties During Haj Stampede in Saudi Arabia
The Anti-Defamation League expressed “deep condolences” on Friday following the deaths of at least 700 pilgrims outside the holy Islamic city of Mecca on the haj, or pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, in Saudi Arabia.
At least 717 people were killed and 863 injured on Thursday when two massive groups of pilgrims met at a crossroads in Mina just northeast of Mecca, in what the ADL described as a “tragedy.”
According to CNN, the possible reasons for the stampede include: “pilgrims rushing to complete the rituals, heat, masses of faithful pushing against each other in opposite directions, even confusion among the many first-timers on the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Mina.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life near the holy city of Mecca and express our condolences to the families of those who perished and to the entire Muslim community across the globe. This horrific catastrophe touches all who value and respect religious commitment and devotion,” wrote ADL National Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and ADL National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
“We are pained that this sacred occasion has been marred by tragedy and pray for the recovery of the injured,” they said, condoning Pope Francis’ statements of solidarity with the pilgrims trampled in the stampede.
The haj to Mecca is the world’s largest gathering of people, with last year’s bringing together over 2,000,000 worshipers. The haj is one of five pillars in Islam, along with praying, fasting during Ramadan, giving charity and declaring belief in one God. Friday’s stampede is not unprecedented, but the hefty death toll marked the worst tragedy to strike the pilgrimage in 25 years. In 1990, 1,426 pilgrims died in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel.