Netanyahu Declares National Day of Mourning as Meron Death Toll Rises to 45

Authorities still working to identify some of the dead; many families not yet notified; President Rivlin establishes hotline for families still seeking missing loved ones

By TOI STAFFToday, 3:40 am 

  • Israeli rescue forces and police near a mass fatality scene during a gathering marking the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
  • Israeli rescue forces and police at a mass fatality scene during a gathering for the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel, on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)Israeli rescue forces and police at a mass fatality scene during a gathering for the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel, on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
  • Crowd in the moments before the Mt Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021 (Screen grab)Crowd in the moments before the Mt Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021 (Screen grab)
  • A photo taken on April 30, 2021 following a stampede in Meron shows plastic bags with shoes and hats belonging to people who were attending a religious gathering overnight in the northern Israeli town near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag BaOmer holiday. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)A photo taken on April 30, 2021 following a stampede in Meron shows plastic bags with shoes and hats belonging to people who were attending a religious gathering overnight in the northern Israeli town near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag BaOmer holiday. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • Israeli rescue forces and police on a metal-floored walkway hours after a mass fatality event during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)Israeli rescue forces and police on a metal-floored walkway hours after a mass fatality event during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
  • A hat at the scene of a deadly stampede during the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)A hat at the scene of a deadly stampede during the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Therapist says trauma for those at scene will be major and long-lasting


The Maccabi health provider set up a trauma center this morning in Karmiel for people dealing with psychological impact from the night’s events.

Maccabi psychologist Gal Samooha says families “came with anxiety as a result of their traumatic experience.” He says the psychological impact of the disaster will only become clear in the coming weeks, and will likely be major.

“People don’t always feel the impact of such events immediately, and it is often only realized weeks later. There were so many people and it was so traumatic that there will be a lot of impact on mental health,” he says.

“Let’s remember that entire families were there, including young children. There could well be kids, and adults too, with difficulty sleeping, flashbacks and an ongoing sense of anxiety.”

14min ago

Sunday’s cabinet meeting canceled in light of Meron disaster

The cabinet meeting planned for Sunday has been canceled following the disaster at Mount Meron.

Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman says: “Our hearts are with the families who have lost their loved ones, and we send wishes of full recovery for the wounded.”

20min ago

Report: Senior civil engineer approved event ahead of disaster

Haaretz reports that a senior civil engineer working on behalf of the Religious Affairs Ministry approved yesterday night’s event after touring the site, including the narrow corridor where the disaster occurred.

He will likely be questioned as the investigation into the incident moves forward.

24min ago

Fathers, teens, US rabbis: More names of Meron victims come out

More names are coming out of victims of the disaster on Mount Meron:

Rabbi Hanoch Slod, 52 of Ashdodhttps:

Yedidia Fogel, a student at Ramat Gan Yeshiva

Moshe Ben Shalom, 20, a student at Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak

David Kreus, 33, a father of nine from Beit Shemesh

Yosef Amram Tauber, an 18-year-old from the US

Elazar Mordechai Goldberg, 37, a father of four from Beitar Illit

Rabbi Eliezer Zvi Yosef, 26, a father of four from the US

Eliyahu Cohen, 16 of Beitar Illit

59min ago

Don’t rush to point fingers at police, head ZAKA rescuer at Meron says

Zohar Dvir, head of the ZAKA rescue teams at the Meron holy site who has been on the scene for most of the last 24 hours, says people shouldn’t rush to point fingers at police for the tragedy.

“I think it is a tragedy that happened, not a mistake or negligence. It’s really not negligence. The problem is the facility and the large crowds,” he tells The Times of Israel.
ZAKA rescue officer Zohar Dvir at Mount Meron on April 30, 2021. (Nathan Jeffay/Times of Israel)

“Things look tough now, it’s important to say everything will be investigated. It was an effect like dominos of people falling, one on top of another.

“It’s an event police plan for months [ahead of time] and the standard of policing was high.”

— Nathan Jeffay

1hr ago

Rush of donors fills MDA blood banks to capacity, no more donors needed

Magen David Adom says the rush of blood donors from around the country has filled its blood banks to capacity.

“MDA is grateful to the huge public that arrived en masse to donate blood. At the moment there’s no more need to come today. Donations will be welcome over the course of the next week,” the organization’s spokesman Zaki Heller says.

Reports are surfacing on social media that MDA donation stations are starting to turn away donors for lack of space to properly store new donations.

1hr ago

Rivlin lights 45 memorial candles at President’s House for Meron victims

President Reuven Rivlin lights 45 memorial candles at the President’s Residence in memory of the Meron victims.

1hr ago

The lucky ones: As father readies to identify son’s body, son walks in the door

Eliyahu Kamar from Or Yehuda searched for his missing son all night, calling hospitals and hoping against hope as the hours dragged by with no word that he would find him among the wounded.

When he could not find his son at any hospital even after authorities said all the wounded had been identified, he began to fear the worst.

He got in his car and drove to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv, where officials were calling on families to come identify the bodies of those killed at Meron.

It was then, as he stood outside Abu Kabir, that he got the call: His son had just walked into the house and gone to sleep after a long night on the roads trying to leave the Meron area.

“Everything is okay, praise God,” he told reporters at the scene. “He couldn’t call because he was stuck on the buses up there and the phone lines had fallen.”

Cellphone networks in the area collapsed overnight under the strain of calls from families seeking their loved ones.

Kamar said he knew he was one of the lucky ones.

“I just want to send my condolences to families that didn’t get to be where I am. My heart, my heart is with them.”

2hr ago

Social media flooded with posts searching for missing loved ones

As families continue to search for loved ones, Hebrew-language social media sites see a spate of heart-breaking posts with photographs of the missing and requests to call family members if the individual is found.

A notice looking for 15-year-old Netanel Avrahami:

Another is looking for a young man named Yosef Yehuda Levi:

“If someone in the Meron area sees this young man, ask him if his name is Shmuel. If it is, give him a cellphone so he can call.”

Daniel Morris, 19, from Teaneck, New Jersey:

2hr ago

Past reports surface that warned of potential for chaos and tragedy at Meron

As the hours pass from the tragedy, more and more information is coming to light about the many warnings issued by various authorities over the years, from senior traffic cops to the state comptroller, about the potential for chaos and disaster at the Meron site.

The various reports reveal that by standard police safety regulations for public gatherings, the site should not have been permitted to hold more than about 15,000 people. Officials have estimated the crowds at the site last night at over 100,000.

Commander Ilan Mor, head of the operational branch of the national traffic police, produced a document in 2016 titled, “Meron celebrations: Erasing the writing on the wall.”

The internal police document analyzes past tragedies caused by overcrowding at public events, including disasters and near-disasters at Meron itself, and concludes that the infrastructure at the Meron holy site could not safely accommodate the numbers of worshipers that attend each year at Lag B’Omer.

In the report, Mor calls to limit the number of people attending and to appoint a single organizer to manage the site, instead of allowing each Hasidic sect to run its own area.

Similarly, a 2008 state comptroller report warned of a “systemic failure at the Rashbi compound [at Meron]” due to “many different authorities all involved in its management,” a chaotic situation that would lead to harm to the holy site and endangered the worshipers.

2hr ago

Druze town offers help, opens homes to Meron evacuees

Radi Najm, mayor of the Druze town of Beit Jan near Mount Meron, said his town had opened its facilities and many families had opened their homes to evacuees and rescuers from the disaster.

The help from nearby Arab and Druze villages and towns to the masses of Jewish evacuees after the tragedy has been a consistent thread in the media reporting on the disaster.

“Beit Jan residents and the local council join in the grief of the entire nation,” Najm says in a statement.

“They open their homes and the council’s facilities to offer any help possible. I have ordered the [town’s] emergency services to provide any help necessary to the rescue crews. The residents are ready to receive evacuees and families from the disaster area.”

Similar help has come from nearby Tamra, Peki’in and other Arab towns.

2hr ago

MDA establish blood donation sites nationwide as Israelis rush to give

Israelis throughout the country are responding to the call by the Magen David Adom rescue service for blood donations to help handle the demand as hospitals care for the wounded from the Meron disaster.

Meron death toll raised to 45

The ZAKA rescue service raises the death toll in the Meron disaster to 45.

2hr ago

Authorities begin releasing names of Meron victims

The first names are released by authorities of those who died in the Mount Meron disaster.

The dead include old and young, parents and children. Over 12 hours after the tragedy, many families are still reporting being unable to reach missing loved ones.

Shragi Gestetner, a Montreal native and well-known Haredi singer, is among the dead.

Rabbi Menahem Zakbach of Modi’in Illit.

Simha Bonim Ziskind, 23, from Beit Shemesh. His funeral will take place today in Haifa.

Rabbi Shimon Matalon of Beitar Illit.

As news of the deaths is filtering to families of those identified, some of the notices being posted on Hebrew-language social media accounts are especially heartbreaking.

“The grandchild of a neighbor, about 12 years old, has died. The heart struggles to believe,” one Israeli writes on Twitter.

3hr ago

Netanyahu declares Sunday a day of national mourning for Meron victims, promises thorough probe

Visiting the site of the Meron disaster, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that Sunday would be marked a “day of national mourning.”

“There were heartbreaking scenes here. People who were crushed to death, including children,” Netanyahu says in a video from the scene.

He asked Israelis not to spread rumors about the identity of the dead. “Many of the dead have yet to be identified, and I ask not to spread rumors on social networks because it breaks the families’ hearts. Let the authorities work.”

He praised the rescuers, whose “fast work” prevented “a much larger disaster.”

“We will carry out a comprehensive, serious, detailed investigation to ensure this kind of disaster never happens again,” he vowed.

“I ask on Sunday to announce a day of national mourning. We will all join in the grief of the families and in prayer for the wounded.”

3hr ago

Health Ministry sets up mental health hotline after Meron disaster

The Health Ministry establishes a hotline for those seeking psychological help dealing with the Meron disaster.

The hotline offers advice on coping with the tragedy for those affected. It was established in collaboration with the Geha Mental Health Center in Petah Tikvah.

The number of the hotline is 03-933-2995.

3hr ago

Top Haredi journalist: The state has to take control and organize Mount Meron

As police and Justice Ministry officials announce the launch of investigations into the tragedy at Mount Meron, some influential ultra-Orthodox journalists are calling for introspection within their own community as well.

“Our community also has a duty to learn lessons” from the disaster, Yossi Elituv, editor of the Mishpacha weekly and host of a radio show on Israel Radio, says on Twitter.

Elituv lashes the chaotic division of the pilgrimage area between various competing Hasidic sects as part of the problem that led to last night’s tragedy.

“Our first and immediate task, to free Mount [Meron] from the control” of the sects.

“Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai, the second-century sage commemorated at the site,] is the spiritual asset of the entire Jewish people, not of any private body. The state needs to establish a professional authority to run the site according to the following principle: the public welfare and the safety of the worshipers.”

3hr ago

President Rivlin establishes hotline for families seeking loved ones

President Reuven Rivlin commits his office to help families still desperately searching for their missing loved ones after the Mount Meron disaster.

In a statement, the President’s House announces it has set up a hotline at phone number 02-670-7211 that will remain staffed throughout Shabbat.

“Dear families, please call the President’s Office if you’re looking for your loved ones, or send us a message on social media. We will make every effort to find them via the relevant authorities,” the president’s statement says.

3hr ago

Local Arab villages near Mount Meron offer food, drink to evacuees

Media reports say residents of local Arab villages and towns near Mount Meron, including in the town of Tamra, have set up stations with free food and drink for the many thousands of Jewish worshipers still trying to make their way out of the mountainous Meron area in the wake of last night’s tragedy.

According to Yoseph Haddad, an Arab Israeli activist, initiatives to help the evacuees have launched in Jish, Yarka and Peki’in.

3hr ago

Survivor describes harrowing stampede: ‘I have a kid at home, help me!’

One of the wounded interviewed by the Kan public broadcaster in hospital describes the harrowing minutes of the stampede.

“There were many people on me. And we slipped one onto another, more and more and more people, until the police decided to just pull the fences down and start to rescue people.

“It took time, and in the meantime I remember I was lying on someone and he wasn’t breathing.

“There was a point where someone just wanted to move, so he shoved a fist to here” – indicating his face – “and I felt myself stopping to breathe, and I said to him, I screamed, ‘Help me, move your hand!’ and I screamed to people, ‘I have a kid at home, help me!’

“Nobody knew what to do. They threw water from above, that’s all there was to do at that point.”

4hr ago

TV: At time of stampede, 90,000 were at Meron, far fewer than previous years

Around 90,000 people were at Mount Meron at the time of the deadly Lag B’Omer stampede, far fewer than previous years, Channel 12 reports.

The TV network underlines that it was the bottleneck where the disaster unfolded, rather than the number of total worshipers at the pilgrimage site, that drove the tragedy.

The Lag B’Omer festivities at Meron — the burial site of Jewish sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai — generally draw hundreds of thousands.

Crowd in the moments before the Mt Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021 (Screen grab)

4hr ago

Netanyahu arrives in Meron after deadly stampede

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived at Mount Meron following the deadly Lag B’Omer stampede.

He is touring the site of one of Israel’s worst peacetime disasters with Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and police.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana at the scene of the Mt Meron tragedy, hours after dozens of people were killed in a stampede at the site, which was packed with Lag B’Omer pilgrims, April 30, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Hebrew media reports say some of the worshipers who remain at the site are heckling the prime minister and chanting slogans against him. Channel 12 broadcasts a clip in which one voice apparently denounces him as a “Nazi.”

4hr ago

Palestinian attempts to stab Israeli cop near Bethlehem, is shot

A Palestinian man attempts to stab an Israeli police officer with a sharp object south of Bethlehem, police say.

The suspected assailant has been shot and is being treated at the scene. The police officer is not injured.

4hr ago

Police minister calls for independent probe of Meron disaster

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who oversees the Israel Police, calls for an independent investigation of the Mount Meron stampede.

“A terrible disaster occurred last night. It is clear that an independent… investigation will be needed for all aspects related to the planning of the event, preparations, responsibilities, infrastructure, etc.,” says Ohana at Meron.

Police have launched an investigation and a Justice Ministry unit is probing possible police culpability in the deadly affair.

5hr ago

EU, India, Austria extend condolences over Meron disaster

India and Austria join numerous other countries in offering condolences to Israel over the Meron stampede tragedy.

The European Union, in a statement, says it “expresses its deepest condolences to families and friends of the victims and to the people of Israel and extends its wishes for a quick recovery to those hurt.”

5hr ago

Families of Meron victims set to arrive at forensic institute to ID bodies

The Abu Kabir Forensic Institute is set to receive the bodies of Meron stampede victims, ahead of the identification process, the Health Ministry says.

Yiddish-speaking social workers are on hand to assist the families, many of whom are ultra-Orthodox, arriving to identify the bodies, according to the ministry.

5hr ago

Health minister visits Safed hospital after stampede

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visits the Ziv Medical Center in Safed after the Meron disaster.

Speaking to reporters, Edelstein says most of the injured have been identified and are in contact with their families.

“I hope that whoever is in the hospital will be discharged home soon,” says Edelstein. “We, as a government, will check what happened there [in Meron].”

Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy says the families of several of the casualties are located abroad.

5hr ago

Netanyahu heads to Meron after deadly stampede

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to Mount Meron, following the deadly stampede, one of Israel’s worst-ever peacetime disasters, Army Radio reports.

5hr ago

Justice Ministry unit probing whether police negligence caused stampede

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department will immediately open a probe into possible police negligence in the fatal stampede in Meron, the attorney general announces.

Investigators have already been sent to Meron to gather evidence.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in a statement, says “it was decided that PIID will immediately examine whether there are suspicions of criminality by police in the tragedy in Meron.”

But the attorney general says that at this stage, testimony won’t be taken from police officers who were present at the scene.

5hr ago

Germany laments ‘devastating’ Lag B’Omer stampede at Meron

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sends his condolences to the families of the Mount Meron stampede victims, while lamenting the “devastating” tragedy.

6hr ago

Chaos at Mount Meron as crowds wait for hours to leave site


Masses of men, women and small children have been waiting for hours to leave Mount Meron, following the deadly stampede at the pilgrimage site early this morning.

Police officers say they have almost no control over the massive bussing operation underway at the site, which is being rolled out haphazardly and with evident mismanagement.

With no clear signs or directions, people are stopping passing buses to ask their destinations — Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Safed — causing massive traffic jams and further confusion.

“We have no direction. There’s someone down the hill who’s supposed to be in charge, but I don’t know. We’re trying to keep people back to let the buses through but…” a police officer tells The Times of Israel, before trailing off with a shrug.

As people have been stranded here for hours, individuals have begun passing out water bottles to keep people from dehydrating.

Orthodox Jews are pictured on April 30, 2021 following a stampede in Meron which took place overnight during a religious gathering in the northern Israeli town near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday (Jack Guez / AFP)

6hr ago

Chief rabbi: Now is the time for prayer, not blame

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef calls for prayer, not blame, following the deadly Lag B’Omer stampede at Mount Meron.

“This is not the time to look for guilty parties,” he says, urging mass prayer for the victims and injured.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef speaks during Shas Party’s election rally at the Yazdim synagogue in Jerusalem on February 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

6hr ago

Police minister: Many Meron victims have yet to be identified

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana says many of the Meron stampede victims have yet to be identified.

“Unfortunately, many of the deceased have yet to be identified… and as a result, there are many families still unaware [of the fate of their relatives],” he says.

Ohana, whose office oversees the Israel Police, says officers are working to clear the roads around Mount Meron and enable those stranded at the pilgrimage site to head home.

6hr ago

New Jersey student said among missing at Meron

New Hope MK Dani Dayan, formerly Israel’s consul general in New York, says a New Jersey student is among those missing following the Mount Meron disaster.

Daniel Morris, 19, was separated from his friends and has yet to be located, says Dayan.

6hr ago

Thousands still struggling to get home after Meron disaster


Thousands of people are struggling to get home following the stampede at Mount Meron, with some still stranded on the mountain and others flocking to nearby transportation terminals.

Police have set up dozens of roadblocks around the area, in an effort to direct traffic, but the sheer numbers of people and vehicles is causing traffic jams and backups around Mount Meron and the nearby city of Safed.

The winding, single-lane highways surrounding Mount Meron in northern Israel are dotted with groups of religious Jews, carrying suitcases and plastic bags, as they make their way on foot toward home before Shabbat begins on Friday evening.

Though a massive bussing operation is underway from Mount Meron itself, the narrow roads leading to the site and general confusion have created a major bottleneck, leaving men, women and children stranded.
A photo taken on April 30, 2021 shows a crowded street in the northern Israeli town of Meron near the scene of an overnight stampede which took place during a religious gathering near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday. (Jack Guez / AFP)

6hr ago

Citing shortage, medics plead for blood donations after Meron disaster

The Magen David Adom emergency service pleads with Israelis to donate blood following the Meron stampede, citing a shortage.

“We are short of blood,” says an MDA spokeswoman. “We are opening sites across the country and call on people to come and donate to help with this disaster as well as our daily activities.”

MDA is specifically looking for type O donors, according to Channel 12. Those who have come in contact with COVID-19 carriers in the past 28 days are not eligible to donate blood.

6hr ago

Hats, glasses, shoes scattered at site of Meron stampede

Harrowing photos from the scene of the Meron disaster show hats, shoes and glasses left behind in the deadly
A photo taken on April 30, 2021 following a stampede in Meron shows plastic bags with shoes and hats belonging to people who were attending a religious gathering overnight in the northern Israeli town near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A photo taken on April 30, 2021 following a stampede in Meron shows plastic bags with shoes and hats belonging to people who were attending a religious gathering overnight in the northern Israeli town near the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

7hr ago

Israelis search desperately for missing relatives after Meron disaster

Some Israelis are taking to the radio to publicize information on their missing relatives following the deadly Meron stampede.

One of those missing is Yonatan Chevroni, whose phone was found at 4 a.m. at the site of the disaster.

The local hospitals have opened special hotlines following the crisis. The Ziv Medical Center number is 1255161; Poriya Medical Center: 1255162; Rambam Medical Center: 1255144.

7hr ago

British Jewish umbrella group ‘devastated’ by Meron disaster

The Board of Deputies of British Jews says it’s “devastated” by the deadly stampede in Meron.

“We are devastated at the news that a celebration for the festival of Lag B’Omer has led to such a tragic loss of life. Lag B’Omer traditionally celebrates the cessation of death of religious students from a terrible plague in Roman times. It is a bitter irony that the day will now become partly known as a day of mourning for the families affected,” says its president, Marie van der Zyl, in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and with the families of the deceased.”

7hr ago

Children among dead and seriously hurt in Meron stampede — report

Army Radio reports that children are among the 44 dead in the stampede at Meron.

The radio report also says that two children hospitalized in serious condition have yet to be identified.

7hr ago

US national security adviser laments ‘terrible tragedy’ at Meron

In a tweet, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says: “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel tonight following the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron.”

He sends condolences to the families of the victims and well-wishes to those injured.

8hr ago

Emergency service: Families of dead have yet to be notified

Hours after the deadly stampede at Meron, the families of the deceased have yet to be notified amid a complicated effort to identify the victims, a spokesperson for the Zaka emergency service says, according to Channel 12.

Israelis are being encouraged not to publicize information about the victims on social media until the families receive official word on the fate of their relatives.

8hr ago

Ministry: Police struggling to clear roads around Meron, holding up evacuation

The Transportation Ministry says hundreds of empty buses dispatched to Meron to evacuate the remaining worshipers from the Galilee pilgrimage site are unable to reach the area.

Police are struggling to clear the roads around Meron, the ministry says.

8hr ago

Police commander says he bears responsibility for Meron disaster, probe ongoing

The police force’s Northern District Commander Shimon Lavi, who oversaw the security arrangements at Meron, says he takes responsibility for the disaster that killed 44 people.

“I bear overall responsibility, for better or worse, and am ready for any investigation,” he tells reporters following the deadly stampede.

But he stresses that the cause of the disaster is still unclear. Some eyewitnesses have accused police of blocking a key exit.

There is an ongoing “complicated effort to gather evidence to reach the truth,” he says.

He also says that police officers saved lives during the stampede, pushing through the crowds to rescue those trapped.

8hr ago

EU ambassador sends condolences to families of Meron victims

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret extends his “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the victims in the Meron tragedy.

8hr ago

Emergency services: Phones of the Meron dead still ringing with calls from ‘Mom’

A spokesperson for the Zaka emergency services group says the cellphones of the deceased in the Meron disaster are ringing continuously with calls from frantic loved ones.

“The phones of the dead don’t stop ringing and we see [the calls are from] ‘mom’ and ‘my dear wife,’” Motti Bokchin tells Army Radio.

“It’s unfathomable,” he adds.

8hr ago

Emergency services group says many at Mt. Meron unaware of tragedy’s extent

The spokesperson for the Zaka emergency services group says many people at Mt. Meron still do not understand the magnitude of the event there.

“I left the scene to bring a drink, and people were praying. They’re cut off. They don’t understand the size of the tragedy. They don’t understand there there are dozens dead, an incomprehensible amount,” says Motti Bokchin.

Some congregants are seen in live news feeds at Mt. Meron singing and dancing after the sunrise on Friday morning.

Widespread failures in cell phone service due to overload have hampered communication in the area.

9hr ago

Some Mt. Meron worshipers say police blocked exit

Some congregants at Mt. Meron say police blocked an exit during severe overcrowding that led to at least 44 deaths.

It wasn’t immediately clear why police may have prevented some people from leaving the scene, which would have lessened pressure on the packed crowd, but officers were apparently unaware of the severity of the situation and trying to keep some areas clear of congregants.

Channel 12 broadcasts footage of tightly packed worshipers arguing with police at some point during the night.

“We were walking out, everything was flowing, suddenly it stopped,” a survivor identified as Zohar tells Channel 12. “Everyone was pressed up against each other and we did not understand why. I lifted up my head and I saw police blocking the entrance, I shouted to them ‘people are dying here.’”

9hr ago

Emergency services group says it treated 150 wounded

The Magen David Adom emergency services group says it treated 150 injured people at Mt. Meron.

Six were in critical condition, 18 in serious condition, eight moderately hurt and 80 lightly injured, the group says.

The group says it left some casualties on the scene that were deemed not possible to save.

9hr ago

Police video shows frantic effort to evacuate casualties

Israel Police releases a video showing the frantic effort to evacuate casualties from Mt. Meron.

10hr ago

Death toll climbs to 44

The death toll in the Mt. Meron tragedy climbs to 44, according to Hebrew media reports.

Over 100 are injured, some critically.

The Hatzalah emergency services group says the casualties include “small children.”

Thousands of people remain on the scene, with hundreds seeking to continue holiday prayers and refusing police evacuation orders.

10hr ago

Hundreds face off with police, refuse to evacuate

Hundreds of worshipers face off with police, demand entrance to a holy site and refuse to comply with evacuation orders in Meron.

Police are not enforcing the evacuation in the face of the crowds, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

The crowd opposing the police is gathered only meters from the scene of the deadly stampede, the report says.

Congregants harass journalists on the scene and refuse to answer questions about the evacuation.

One passerby dismisses the tragedy, saying, “It doesn’t matter.”

“They blocking us for no reason. I want to pray. Look what they’re doing to Jews,” he says.

Footage from the scene shows ultra-Orthodox men dancing and singing after the sun comes up on Friday morning.

Tens of thousands of others comply with the evacuation orders and stream away from the site to lines of waiting buses.

Channel 13 reports a shortage of transportation, forcing some people to remain on the scene.

10hr ago

Survivor describes ‘screams, chaos’ while he was trapped underfoot

One survivor says from a hospital bed that he slipped on a walkway before being trampled. He was trapped under the crowd for some 10 minutes before first responders cleared the crowd and began treating him, he says.

“I felt someone push me, he just wanted to move, he punched me. I felt that I couldn’t breathe,” he tells the Kan public broadcaster. “No one knew what to do.”

“It started with very heavy crowding. There were a lot of people on top of me. I was lying on someone else who wasn’t breathing. There were screams, chaos. I saw children underneath me. The only thing going through my mind was that I didn’t want my child to be an orphan.”

10hr ago

‘Small children’ among the casualties, rescue service says

Eli Beer, head of the Hatzalah rescue services organization, says children were trampled during the stampede.

“Unfortunately, we found small children trampled there, and we performed CPR on children. We were able to save some of them. We need to wake up. I’m appalled at the amount of people who were allowed in,” Beer says.

11hr ago

Cell phone outages hamper rescue efforts

Poor cell phone reception further complicates rescue efforts and attempts to locate people in Meron.

Authorities say heavy use of cell phone networks in the area is causing poor service.

First responders are attempting to reunite dozens of children with their parents and worried Israelis around the country struggle to make contact with family members who were in Meron.

Police say the 101 emergency services number is available for information.

Several hospitals open hotlines for people to search for family and friends who may have been injured; Galilee: 04-9850505, Ziv: 04-6828838 and Poriya: 04-6652211.

11hr ago

Slippery walkway caused falls during rush for exit

A slippery walkway was at least partially to blame for injuries in the crowd in Meron, Channel 12 reports.

Some 20,000 people streamed down a narrow walkway between two walls during the event. On the ground was slick metal flooring, which caused some people to fall underfoot during the rush for the exit.The sloped walkway where the Mt Meron tragedy unfolded, seen a few hours later, April 30, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Footage from the walkway shows shoes, hats, baby strollers, smashed eyeglasses and water bottles strewn on the ground. Metal railings were torn from the ground.Smashed glasses and a hat at the scene of the Mt Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

11hr ago

Death toll rises above 40; ‘process of identification’ starting

The death toll is above 40, with more than 100 injured, emergency services say.

Those of the injured who need hospitalization have all been evacuated from the scene, Shabtai Garbatchik, the police spokesman for the ultra-Orthodox community says.

He says “the process of identification” has now begun.Crowds in the moments around the Mt Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

The authorities are focused on helping the crowds leave the site and make their way home. There were some 50,000 at the pilgrimage site, Channel 12 reports; “now there are still thousands.”

11hr ago

Video shows how densely the crowds were packed

Video from the night’s events gives an insight into how vast the crowds were, and how closely packed, at the Mt Meron event.

11hr ago

‘We don’t know exactly what happened, but the result is unthinkable’

A Zaka emergency rescue officer (pictured below), speaking at the service’s clinic at the site, tells Channel 12 news that rescue staff are working with Israel police to evacuate bodies from the scene of the disaster. “I’ve just come back from there,” he says.

He says access to the scene is being complicated by the presence of large crowds, including children.A Zaka emergency rescue official describes the tragecy at Mt Meron (Channel 12 screenshot)

He says Zaka is trying to gather all the children who have become separated from their parents at the Zaka facility, and bring them together.

“We are trying to locate people who are believed to be missing… to organize a register of names.”

Mobile telephones are not working, he says, and the situation is chaotic.

“There are more than 30 children here right now… whose mothers and fathers aren’t answering the phone.”

“Without getting graphic,” he says, “I’ve been with Zaka for decades. I’ve never seen anything like this… We don’t know exactly what happened, but the result is unthinkable.”

He says all the injured have been evacuated from the site.

12hr ago

Incident began at around 1 a.m., at bonfire lighting ceremony

The tragedy began at around 1 am on Friday, emergency services say.

A bonfire lighting ceremony for Toldot Aharon hasidim was being held at the pilgrimage area, close to the gravesite of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, amid huge, densely packed crowds, first reports indicate.

The overcrowding led to some people falling, and other people falling over them, precipitating a stampede and fatal crushing, according to a Channel 12 news report.

Warning: Graphic footage. The video below shows the evacuation of some of the injured.

12hr ago

Police overseeing evacuation of Mt. Meron, with death toll at 38

Huge crowds are evacuating the Lag B’Omer pilgrimage event at Mt. Meron in the Upper Galilee after dozens of people were killed, and many more injured, in an apparent stampede after midnight Thursday-Friday.

The current death toll is 38, but the number is not final.

Police are overseeing the evacuation, as ambulances and helicopters are still ferrying the injured to hospitals.

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