Death Toll of West Bank Synagogue Disaster in May Rises to Three

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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The grandstand that collapsed in the Karlin synagogue in Givat Ze'ev last month.
The grandstand that collapsed in the Karlin synagogue in Givat Ze'ev last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

A man who was critically injured in a grandstand collapse at a synagogue near Jerusalem last month died on Thursday, as police continued to investigate suspicions of criminal negligence surrounding the Givat Ze'ev disaster that claimed the lives of three people so far.

Eliyahu Karpel, 39, woke up from a medically-induced coma last week and was receiving visitors in his hospital room in the Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem. But his condition deteriorated yesterday when he developed a lung infection and cerebral edema, and he died in the intensive care unit. He had no living relatives.

Karpel, a resident of Beitar Illit, was wounded when a grandstand in the synagogue, affiliated with the Karlin Hasidic dynasty, collapsed during a celebration of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Karpel was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel as a boy after joining the Hasidic sect.

The synagogue in Givat Ze'ev, a settlement north of Jerusalem, was under construction during the mass Shavuot prayer. The grandstand was erected earlier in the day in order to accommodate the hundreds of worshipers. A high-ranking police officer told Haaretz that the builders "did not even use screws to reinforce [the grandstand] and used steel wires instead." The officer added that "whoever allowed them to use [the grandstand] is a criminal."

The synagogue manager and the engineer that oversaw the grandstand construction were arrested. Police interrogated senior members of the Karlin Hasidic sect, engineers involved in the construction of the grandstand and high-ranking officials of the Givat Ze'ev council. "The synagogue was built without permits, and all the manager and the engineer wanted was to hold the event no matter what, safety be damned," the police told the court in the arrest hearings of the two.

The other two fatalities are Meir Gleiberman, 13, and Rabbi Mordechai Binyamin Rubinstein, 23. About 180 people were wounded in the grandstand collapse, and three are still in hospital, one in serious condition and two in moderate condition.

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