Meron Disaster Memorial Torn Down by What Appear to Be ultra-Orthodox Vandals

Sam Sokol
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People pay respects to the victims of the Mount Meron disaster, in which 45 people were killed in a stampede in April, at the site in May.
People pay respects to the victims of the Mount Meron disaster, in which 45 people were killed in a stampede in April, at the site in May.Credit: Amir Levy
Sam Sokol

A temporary memorial to the dozens of victims of the Mount Meron disaster was torn down at the site on Wednesday by vandals who appear to be ultra-Orthodox.

Video footage from Mount Meron showed several people dressed in Hasidic garb, one of whom was wrapped in a prayer shawl, rip the posters from the wall where they were displayed, tearing them apart and stomping on them.

Forty-five men and teenage boys – the vast majority of whom were ultra-Orthodox – were killed in a stampede during the annual pilgrimage to the holy site in April.

In a statement reported by multiple Hebrew-language media outlets, the families declared that Wednesday’s incident had crossed a “red line” and called on law enforcement to “act immediately” to bring the perpetrators to justice. Walla News reported that police are currently working to identify the suspects.

Expressing disgust at the vandalism, ultra-Orthodox journalist Ariel Elharrar tweeted that just because the vandals were “wrapped in prayer shawls does not make them righteous.” It was time, he contended, "to overthrow the extremists who terrorize ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.”

Yisrael Diskind, whose brother Simcha was among those killed, tweeted images of the torn photos accompanied by a mournful verse from the book of Psalms calling on god to wreak divine vengeance on the wicked.

“They kill the widow and the stranger and murder orphans. They say ‘God does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.’ Fools among the people understand. When, senseless ones, will you grow wise? Shall he who implants the ear not hear? Shall he who implants the eye not see,” he wrote.

His was not the first call for divine vengeance by the bereaved families. Last month, the family of brothers Yosef David (18) and Moshe Elhadad (12) erected tombstones on their graves bearing the Hebrew acronym for the phrase “may the Almighty avenge his blood,” which is usually reserved for cases of violent death, such as terrorist attacks.

Following the disaster, the families expressed anger at ultra-Orthodox lawmakers for attempting to block an official state commission of inquiry into the tragedy. The lawmakers had argued that such an investigatory body would be inherently biased against their community and would not take their sensitivities into consideration. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s cabinet voted to establish a commission on June 20.

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