Shas Leader: Meron Disaster Is Sign From Heaven, but We Are Not Exempt From Scrutiny

Israeli state comptroller Matanyahu Englman is due to arrive at Mount Meron on Tuesday, making it the first step in the investigation into the disaster

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Shas party leader, Arye Dery, 2020.
Shas party leader, Arye Dery, 2020.Credit: Adina Welman / Knesset spokesperson

Interior Minister Arye Dery addressed the Mount Meron disaster on Monday, saying that “the terrible disaster that happened is a sign from heaven, but that doesn’t exempt us from scrutiny and self-examination.”

Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was speaking at a special session of the Knesset devoted to the incident in which 45 people died during the Lag Ba’omer pilgrimage to the site.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “our fundamental duty is to examine every aspect of the Meron disaster” and that after the period of mourning is over the incident will be examined “in an orderly, in-depth and responsible fashion, including all issues relating to gatherings at the mountain in the present and past.”

The prime minister said these issues would include “arrival, security, entry, exit, the allocation of time and security forces and, above all, the engineering changes required at the site and the issue of expropriation, management and responsibility.”

Moshe Gafni, chairman of United Torah Judaism, called on the government to involve itself in the administration of the Mount Meron site. “Blame isn’t the issue,” he said. “If there is going to be an investigating committee, it will find some police officer to blame but this isn’t the problem.

“I don’t want autonomy, I want a government,” Gafni said. “On this Lag B’omer, like the ones before, the government wasn’t at Meron. They only did us favors, from time to time by giving us money. The state wasn’t present at Meron during (Ehud) Olmert and (Ariel) Sharon’s governments either.”

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana called for national unity. “In the face of the great pain” he urged the country to put “all the political cynicism aside, bow one’s head, respect the dead and do everything to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again.”

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