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November 22, 2021 4:29 pm

Israeli Committee on Mount Meron Disaster Urges Immediate Reforms to Avoid Future Tragedy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Ultra Orthodox Jews look at stairs with waste on it in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, April 30, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

A committee investigating the disaster at Israel’s Mount Meron earlier this year submitted an interim report to the government on Monday, which described a “pressing need” for reforms in order to prevent another tragedy.

Forty-five people were trampled to death and 102 others were wounded when a stampede broke out on the mountain this April, during an annual bonfire celebration for the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer.

The interim report shared several recommendations to improve safety, including banning tents and other structures, and removing designated “family areas,” all of which reduce the open space and “contribute to overcrowding,” according to Israel’s N12 news.

The committee also recommended consolidating the multiple small bonfires used to celebrate the Jewish festival into a single large one, and imposing a tentative limit of 20,000 attendees, while cautioning that more research needed to be undertaken on this issue. Over 100,000 people participated in the April event.

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“We see an obligation to minimize as much as possible the danger to the well-being of the participants in the event,” said Miriam Naor, the committee’s chairperson and a former president of Israel’s Supreme Court. “In order to do this, the authorities “should begin preparations for the upcoming Lag B’Omer holiday without delay.”

“We recommend that the government appoint one of its ministers to be responsible for the event,” and take “urgent steps to improve infrastructure” at the site, she continued.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the Mount Meron tragedy “cannot be allowed to recur. Negligence, failed management, and unprofessional appointments cost human lives.”

“We will study the report’s conclusions in depth, which are designed to ensure that from this year, the celebrations on Mount Meron will be handled completely differently,” he said. The government is “obligated to allow and help the event to happen, but in a safe manner.”

Israel’s religious services and public security ministers also expressed their support for safety reforms.

The committee’s report will be studied by the National Security Council, which will then submit recommendations to Bennett’s office.

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