JERUSALEM (AP)-Medical staff say a stampede on a religious holiday caused thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel to participate, killing at least 44 people and injuring about 150 others. This is one of the deadliest civilian disasters in the country.
Witnesses and videotapes showed that the stampede began when a narrow tunnel-like passage was crowded with a large number of people trying to leave the site. Witnesses said that when people walked down the smooth metal stairs, people began to fall to each other at the end of the walkway.
The Israeli Army Radio told the Israeli Army Radio: “Crowds of people were pushed to the same corner and formed a vortex.” When the first row of people fell, he described a terrible scene. He said he was in the next row of people who tripped over.
He said, “I feel like I̵
The video shows a large number of people crowded in the tunnel, most of them ultra-Orthodox in black clothes. Haaretz daily quoted witnesses as saying that police roadblocks prevented people from leaving quickly.
The stampede took place during the Lag BaOmer celebration in Moron Meron, the first legally held large-scale religious gathering since Israel lifted almost all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the launch of one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns at the end of last year, the country’s cases have plummeted.
Lag BaOmer attracts thousands of people each year, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, to commemorate the buried 2nd century sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai). Traditionally, large groups of people would light a bonfire, pray and dance as part of the celebration.
This year, the media estimated the crowd to be about 100,000.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the stampede a “great tragedy” and said that everyone was praying for the victims.
After the stampede, the photo showed a row of wrapped corpses lying on the ground. There were dozens of ambulances at the scene.
Eli Beer, the head of Hatzalah’s rescue service, said he was shocked by the crowds at the event. He said that the facilities at the location were enough to handle a quarter of the people there. He told Army Radio: “As a result of this tragedy, nearly 40 people were killed.”
By Friday morning, another ambulance service provider, Zaka, said the death toll had increased to 44. Spokesperson Motti Bukchin said that the family had been notified and the body was taken to a location for identification. He said that he hoped that the body would be buried before sunset on the Jewish Sabbath, and there would be no funerals there.
The death toll is the same as the number killed in the 2010 bushfires, which is believed to be the deadliest civilian tragedy in the country’s history.
Magen David Adom rescue service spokesperson Zaki Heller said that 150 people have been hospitalized and 6 of them are in critical condition.
Heller told the radio station that “no one had dreamed of it” something like this could happen. He said: “In an instant, we went from a happy thing to a huge tragedy.”
The Israeli military stated that it has dispatched medical personnel, search and rescue teams and helicopters to provide assistance.
The health authorities warned against holding such a big gathering.
However, when the celebration started, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai and other senior officials visited the event and met with the police, who used 5,000 additional troops to maintain order.
Before the stampede, Ohana, a close ally of Netanyahu, thanked the police for their hard work and dedication, “in order to protect the well-being and safety of many participants,” and he wished the country a happy holiday.
Netanyahu is trying to form a ruling coalition before the deadline on Tuesday, and the national tragedy will certainly complicate these efforts.