Israeli Cabinet to Receive Findings of Panel on Deadly Mt. Meron Stampede

Based on the findings, the number of future participants is to be restricted and a special organizer to be appointed by the religious services minister

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Religious men at the funeral of one of the victims of the Meron stampede
Religious men at the funeral of one of the victims of the Meron stampedeCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The government is expected to vote Sunday to accept the interim recommendations of the committee investigating the crowd crush that killed 45 religious men and boys at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai at Meron in April.

According to the committee’s proposed plan for future Lag B’Omer festivities at the tomb, the religious services minister will be in charge of the event, and he will appoint an organizer specifically for it before the end of December. A team headed by the Religious Services Ministry director general and consisting of representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Public Security Ministry and the Transportation Ministry will put together a plan for the event, set a timetable and earmark funding.

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The panel has recommended that the police and the other relevant bodies decide on a maximum number of participants allowed to enter the compound at any given time, which is to be determined by the conditions at the compound. The panel noted however that according to the testimony and information they were given, the area can safely accommodate about 20,000 people. When the tragedy occurred, there were 70,000 people at the site.

Another recommendation states that the religious services minister would retain the right to adjust the committee’s interim recommendations – except for the maximum number of participants. The committee proposes that the National Center for the Development of the Holy Places be permitted to assist an outside production company, as is the case in other state-sponsored events.

Last week the legal adviser for the Religious Services Ministry, Galia Klein, said that former Interior Ministry Arye Dery had been the one to make decisions regarding the event, and not then-Religious Services Minister Ya’akov Avitan. In her testimony before the committee, Klein said: “The message I received was that the interior minister was very much involved, and he was the one who sets the tone.”

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