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God Is Responsible for the Mount Meron Disaster

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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The scene of the stampede tragedy at Mount Meron, yesterday
The scene of the stampede tragedy at Mount Meron, yesterday Credit: Gil Eliahu
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

The disaster on Mount Meron is a theological mishap, but the public call to punish those responsible for the failure does not include God, for some reason. The demand is directed at the human ministerial echelon – they want the head of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana. But the supreme responsibility is God’s, since it is God who decides what happens in the world in general, and on Mount Meron in particular.

During one of the endless discussions in the television studios, someone explained that when he attended the hillula festivities on Mount Meron in the past, and asked Haredi celebrants why they did not fear coming to harm as a result of the many dangers at the site, he was told that they would be saved thanks to God, and they placed their trust in Him. That is why they have no need for the authorities to enforce safety regulations. God is safeguarding them.

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On Saturday night I watched a man who had been injured in the disaster being interviewed from his hospital bed. His eldest son died in . The grieving father stated that God had decided to take his son, for reasons of His own. He wasn’t being poetic – that’s how he explained his injury and his son’s death. In other words, as far as he is concerned there is someone responsible for the calamity: God.

There is no need for a . If Ohana is also responsible, all he did was to carry out God’s plan. Most Israelis believe to some extent in the existence of a God who decides what happens in the world, and that’s why Ohana knows that holding God responsible for the disaster in Meron is a legitimate line of defense in the public arena.

The pilgrims to the tomb of Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – on Lag Ba’omer do so out of a fervent belief that participation in the hillula is a guarantee of good things in their lives. The direct circumstantial connection between the hillula and the fulfillment of their wishes is not enveloped in mystery, on the assumption that the eternal spirit of Rashbi is present at the site, and because God wants them there.

He awaits their arrival, rewarding them for their bonfires, their dancing and their prayers. Just as God is responsible for the good things that happen to , he is also responsible for their calamity. His responsibility must be given an honorable and important place in the media discussion of the disaster.

Who says that there was a failure here? Failures don’t happen to God. This year he decided to kill and injure Jews on the mountain. And as evidenced by the words of the hospitalized father who lost his son there, God chose his victims individually. There were no mistakes there. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Since in the media they are emphasizing their great respect and even their admiration and love for a faith that brings hundreds of thousands to the mountain every year, this faith must also be respected in the discussion of the reasons for the disaster. It’s impossible, the moment a disaster takes place, to push God out of the picture and to conduct a discussion as though only mortals were there on the mountain. That’s not true. The spirit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is also there. And so is God.

God has tremendous influence on the Israeli experience. Without Him there is no Meron and no disaster. Therefore there is no point in convening a government commission of inquiry without inviting experts on God, who will interpret the event from a theological perspective.

There’s no need for discussion in the television studios, but rather in the yeshivas. What does the bereaved father care what the commission will say? God took his son. The question is “why.” Only receiving an authorized answer will prevent a repeat of such incidents in the future. If we don’t know why God decided to punish those specific celebrants, of what use are all the engineering solutions? Leave , Interior Minister Arye Dery and the national police commissioner alone. They are small fry. The time has come to speak to the one who is really responsible.

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