Chief Rabbi leads tributes to victims of Lag B’Omer stampede
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Mount Meron disaster

Chief Rabbi leads tributes to victims of Lag B’Omer stampede

Community leaders say they are 'devastated' at the disaster which killed 44 and injured more than 100

British Jewish leaders have reacted with horror to the deadly stampede in northern Israel which killed 44 and injured more than 100.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis led tributes to the victims, calling it the “worst peacetime loss of life in Israel’s history”.

This comes after at least 44 people died, many of them crushed, at a stampede at an overcrowded Lag B’Omer event in the north of Israel. Over 100 people were injured, many of them critically, as medical staff struggled to evacuate people trapped at the scene at Mount Meron.

Rabbi Mirvis tweeted: “As we struggle to come to terms with the horrific scenes of tragedy in Meron, the worst peacetime loss of life in Israel’s history, this is a moment to unite in grief & prayer. May the memory of those lost to us forever be a blessing & may the injured be granted a refuah shelemah [full and speedy recovery]”

Michael Goldstein, President of the United Synagogue said “the tragic news from Meron, Israel is devastating. We are heartbroken that a night of celebration could so quickly turn to a day of mourning. We share the pain of all the families who have lost a loved one. We wish them long life, and pray for the recovery of the injured.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Devastating scenes at the Lag B’Omer festival in Israel. My thoughts are with the Israeli people and those who have lost loved ones in this tragedy.”

The Movement for Reform Judaism said: “We are devastated over the loss of life” and “our sympathies go out to the families of all those who have died, and everyone in Israel who will be affected by one of the worst disasters in the country’s history.”

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, said: “We are devastated at the news that a celebration for the festival of Lag BaOmer has led to such a tragic loss of life. Lag BaOmer 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.”

The UK Ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan, tweeted he was “deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron last night”, while Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said he was “in shock and mourning over the catastrophe” and that “prayers are with the wounded and victim’s families.”

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

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