Israel announces probe into Mount Meron stampede

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Israel announces probe into Mount Meron stampede

There was criticism of safety measures after April's tragedy, the worst civilian disaster in the country's history, left 45 people dead

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Israel is to examine the circumstances that led to the deaths of 45 people during a stampede at a Lag B’Omer celebration in April after the new government announced an official inquiry.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the new state commission of inquiry would consider safety shortcomings that caused the disaster at Mount Meron.

Most of those killed were trampled to death as they funnelled through a narrow passageway descending from the holy site.

The victims were strictly-Orthodox Jews marking the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the second-century sage whose tomb is visited by hundreds of thousands each year.

Experts had long been warning that the celebrations at Mount Meron, which include singing and dancing as a bonfire is lit, are a safety risk.

This year’s event was attended by around 100,000 people, fewer than in previous years, but it was still Israel’s biggest mass-attendance event since the pandemic.

Bennett said the new state commission of inquiry was needed because while it “cannot bring back those who are gone, the government can do everything to prevent future needless loss”.

An inquiry was not formed under the previous Netanyahu government amid in-fighting involving the strictly-Orthodox parties in his coalition.

Among the victims of the disaster was Moshe Bergman, a 22-year-old from Salford, Greater Manchester.

He was studying to become a rabbi in Israel, where he lived with his wife who he married around 18 months ago.

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