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May 18, 2022 11:22 am

Israel Tightens Entry Rules at Mount Meron Lag B’Omer Festival, One Year After Tragedy

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

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. REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

A year after the disaster at Israel’s Mount Meron that saw 45 people trampled to death, Israeli police forces rolled out new safety protocols on Wednesday, as celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer approached.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that the government has made “considerable” investments to facilitate an “extensive and safe participation,” as thousands of participants flocked to Mount Meron in northern Israel, where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried. Stricter entry rules and safety regulations have been put in place this year to manage the arriving pilgrims, who in past years have numbered in the tens of thousands.

“I ask the public to act in accordance with the directives that have been published and to go only with a ticket so that we can have a safe celebration,” urged Bennett. “This also applies to those celebrating around the country — follow the safety rules.”

Only 16,000 permit-holders will be allowed to be on the mountain site at any time, according to the new rules. Participants will not be allowed to enter the site by private car or foot, but will instead be taken shuttled there by Transportation Ministry services.

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“We didn’t just pick a number for the entry limit,” said Shimon Lavi, commissioner of the Northern District police. “The quantity is based on analyses and reports from safety engineers to preserve order and public safety.”

“We want everyone who comes here today to return back home safe and sound,” Lavi added.

The festival will be secured with the deployment of 8,000 police officers and Border Police forces during the event to maintain public order.

“The celebration on Mount Meron is an event that expresses love of Israel, bringing people together, holiness and joy,” Bennett remarked. “The celebration brings the entire Jewish people together — religious and secular, ultra-Orthodox and traditional, everyone together.”

At last year’s Mount Meron festival, 45 people were crushed to death and another 102 wounded, including children and teenagers, when a stampede broke out, as an estimated 100,000 people participated.

United Hatzalah said that doctors, paramedics, and EMTs from across the country who were at the fatal event last year will be again providing medical services, working on foot and in ambulances to spread out across the Mount Meron site.

“This is a type of closure for the volunteers who participated last year and did everything they could to save lives amid the tragedy that occurred,” said United Hatzalah president Eli Beer. “We hope that this year there will be no major incidents and that everyone enjoys the holiday in peace.”

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