Israel remembered this Sunday with a day of national mourning the 45 people who lost their lives crushed on Friday in the deadliest civil catastrophe in its history. Since the death of President Simón Peres in 2016, no flags have been flown at half mast in the Jewish state. The tragedy of Lag Baomer, the Jewish holiday of fire, on Mount Meron (north of the country), was caused by a human avalanche in a sanctuary where more than 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews were crowded, 10 times more than allowed by the authorities, singing and dancing around the bonfires.
An avalanche in a massive religious act kills 45 in Israel's worst civil catastrophe
Festive activities were canceled and sporting events were postponed as a sign of mourning. The national forensic center has identified all the victims, some of whom were buried before the start of the sabbat, at sunset on Friday, and the rest have been buried since nightfall on Saturday. A dozen injured in the incident remain hospitalized, of which at least two are in critical condition.
Among the deceased were 10 minors. Five of the dead had American nationality, two were Canadians and there was also a British and an Argentine. It is common for Jews who emigrate to Israel to keep their passport of origin. The Knesset (Parliament) will meet this Tuesday in an extraordinary plenary session in memory of those who died in a stampede that originated in a narrow descending ramp of a bleacher installed on a clearing.
A police unit attached to the Ministry of Justice investigates whether the police did not comply with the obligation to control the capacity and prevent tens of thousands of people from gathering on Mount Meron. On the Lag Baomer festival in 2019, 250,000 pilgrims gathered, but in 2020 the celebration was canceled due to the pandemic, which continues to impose restrictions on cultural and sports events. Analysts in the Hebrew press point out that the agents refrained from limiting the passage of pilgrims – to a place that had already registered negative security inspections in the past – so as not to disturb the ultra-religious parties allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.