Saturday, July 2nd | 3 Tammuz 5782

May 18, 2022 12:29 pm

The Angel of Death at Mount Meron

avatar by Avi Marcus /


Candles are seen during a vigil for the people killed and injured in a stampede at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish festival on the slopes of Israel’s Mount Meron, in Jerusalem May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun – I felt like the angel of death last year at Mount Meron, when the annual Lag B’Omer festival turned into a disaster — a crowd crush caused by inadequate infrastructure killed 45 people, some of them children.

I was supposed to leave the mountain and the festival at 12:00 a.m. when my shift ended. I am the Deputy Head of United Hatzalah’s Medical Department and a paramedic, and at the time I was in charge of the medical treatments given on the mountain during the celebration. We always have a member of the medical department present at the festival in order to oversee the two medical clinics that the organization operates as well as the eight to 15 teams of volunteers active at any given time. My job was to make sure proper treatments were given to those who needed them and coordinate any and all medical needs with our dispatch center and other medical organizations. This included everything from making sure medical supplies were available to treatment or transport of patients.

I didn’t leave at midnight. Instead, I stayed to talk with some of my fellow responders to see how they were holding up on one of the most active nights of the year. Just before 1:00 a.m., the tragedy began to unfold and I was right in the middle of it.

First, a call went out that a balcony had collapsed. We didn’t quite know what had happened, but we ran to the location indicated. I found a man lying on the floor, and together with other first responders, began to perform CPR. Someone came up to me and asked why I was performing CPR. This was a mass casualty incident (MCI), they said, and as one of the highest-ranking medical personnel present, I had to manage the scene itself. I looked a few meters further down the path, and that is when I saw multiple teams performing CPR on multiple casualties. Then I understood the magnitude of what was taking place. It wasn’t a collapsed balcony, but a crush — a major MCI.

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I couldn’t perform CPR on each and every victim. That wasn’t my job at that moment. I switched to MCI protocol and began to check the victims who were receiving CPR. I started to declare people dead. It was very loud, and per MCI protocols I checked pulses for 20 seconds each, not the usual 10. I checked the pupils of each individual multiple times to make sure there was no response. This was to make sure the person was actually deceased and had no pulse, because during an MCI, you can miss signs of life due to the noise or chaos at the scene.

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