Families of Meron Stampede Victims Sue Israel for Millions

Lawsuit filed by families of 10 victims of the Mount Meron disaster details over 200 government failings that it claims led to their relatives' death during an annual pilgrimage in Israel's north

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Family members of Meron disaster victims at the Haifa District Court on Monday.
Family members of Meron disaster victims at the Haifa District Court on Monday.Credit: Rami Shllush
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The families of 10 of the people killed in last year’s disaster at Mount Meron are suing the state for tens of millions of shekels.

The disaster occurred during the annual Lag Ba’omer festivities at Mount Meron last April, when masses of ultra-Orthodox Jews leaving the event were trying to squeeze through a narrow passageway. The ensuing stampede killed 45 people and left another 150 injured.

The suit, filed in the Haifa District Court on Monday, accused the state of “criminal negligence,” charging that a long list of state agencies deliberately ignored the risks of the event and were “indifferent to the harsh outcome this conduct could have, to the point of deliberately turning a blind eye, which led to the tragic outcome.”

The suit details over 200 issues and violations of laws and regulations that it claims led to the disaster. State comptroller’s reports that warned about the risks of mass events at Mount Meron were submitted as an appendix.

Police officers at the site of the disaster, last year.Credit: Rami Shllush

The suit cites the state's failure to pass detailed laws and regulations regarding safety at mass events, "and, worse, exempting religious and national events from obtaining business licenses." Moreover, it said, "to this day, there is still no clear determination as to which agency is responsible for safety at these events, despite the disasters that have already befallen the state and even though the need for regulations has been raised time and time again after each previous disaster."

The agencies listed as defendants in the suit include five ministries – public security, economy, interior, religious services and tourism – as well as the Israel Police, the ambulance service, the fire and rescue service, the National Center for the Development of Holy Sites, the Upper Galilee Regional Council, representatives of the various religious trusts that own parts of gravesite at Mount Meron, the engineering company that handled the event and the safety engineer.

Yaakov Diskind, who lost his son Simcha Bonim Diskind in the disaster, said that the plaintiffs sought to send the message that “even though everything that happens is part of the divine plan, we’re still responsible for our actions, and nobody should evade responsibility.”

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