Commission Investigating Deadly Stampede at Israeli Religious Festival Makes First Visit to Site

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Members of the Mount Meron stampede commission of inquiry visit the site of the disaster, Monday.
Members of the Mount Meron stampede commission of inquiry visit the site of the disaster, Monday.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Members of the state commission of inquiry into a deadly stampede at the Mount Meron religious site made their first visit to the site on Monday.

Forty-five people were killed, and 150 people injured at the annual event held for ultra-Orthodox pilgrims during the Lag B’Omer holiday at the end of April at the grave of the 2nd century Mishnaic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at the foothills of Mount Meron in Israel's north.

The visit’s goal is “to get a direct, first impression of the site’s layout,” according to the commission. Civilians at the site were heard Monday morning accusing commission members of defiling Mount Meron and calling committee member Rabbi Mordechai Karlitz, who is ultra-Orthodox, a “collaborator” and “traitor.”

The police started an internal investigation into the officers responsible for order at the site. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit froze the criminal investigations into the incident last month to avoid interfering with the commission of inquiry.

Calls for a commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the stampede began soon after the disaster.

The cabinet voted last month to establish the commission because of the perceived public interest in understanding how the stampede unfolded. The previous government declined to establish such a commission. The current government also decided that it would recommend guidelines for conducting mass events, particularly in religious places. The committee will also discuss the necessary changes for celebrating Lag B’Omer on Mount Meron and the site's layout to ensure safety at future events.

The commission of inquiry has three members: Miriam Naor, the former Supreme Court president; Rabbi Karlitz, a former mayor of Bnei Brak and member of the Tal Committee on drafting Yeshiva students; and Gen. (Ret.) Shlomo Yanai, who served as chief of Southern Command and head of the army general staff’s planning division.

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