From Pure Happiness to Devastating Sorrow
45 crushed to death and 150 wounded in a stampede exiting Mount Meron event
Once a year, thousands of people gather in the mountain to celebrate joyfully the achievements of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the greatest writers and religious leaders in the Jewish religion. He wrote the book of Zohar, the source of the Kabalah, a famous teaching today.
The celebration lasts a full night, from evening to morning, with praying, singing, and dancing. There is also a special ceremony of cutting hair for kids of 3 years old. This is quite like an important “Rock Concert” for religious jews, so you can imagine the happiness and adrenaline level.
The Celebration Area
The celebration focuses on the grave of the Rabbi (the blue domes in the image). It’s quite an old building, but it's stable. Similar celebrations have been going in this place for over 100 years. The issue is the access route to the inner celebration area itself (marked with a red circle). People drink a lot of water, and the stairs might get a little slippery when water spills.
Sadly, this year ended with a great tragedy. While exiting the most inner area, where the central stage was still happening and the bank was still playing, people slipped and fell. The pressure was so high, so those around them could not even stop to help. A few people behind were not even aware of what has happened, and they just keep walking… The music was so loud so no one heard screams or shouting until it was already too late. First help started coming once the people were able to tell the police forces outside.
This video shows the live camera broadcasting the happiness, eventually stops the music, the main rabbi cries of the disaster, and the shouts to clear the way to the medical team.
In 1995 we had a terrible event in Israel where 3 young people were killed while entering a rock concert of a famous band, Mashina. This was supposed to be their last show, so it was over-booked and others came without a ticket. The gate itself fell on the crowd, which was already straggling to breathe. Mashina (and the other artists at the festival) were shocked by the event and canceled the show. They made another tour to say goodbye, in honor of the dead, this time assuring that no such event would happen. They reminded their names in each show.
In 2010 a huge forest fire trapped a bus driving in winding roads. This was a huge national disaster. We had 44 people burned to death that day. This was a very sad event where the entire country was mourning the lost brave souls.
These two events are well remembered in the minds of the people of Israel, and this tragedy is much greater than both. It should not be ignored.
Many people search to blame in such events. Perhaps the organizers of the events; or the people who allowed the event to happen; or the architects of the grave or those who are in charge of its safety; or maybe the people themselves for attending in a year of corona virus.
Sivan Rahav, a journalist with a voice of reason, tries to give a different viewpoint. “instead of finding the blame, let's pray for the lost souls… its not easy since this event could have been prevented. but there is nothing we can do now.”
May the memory of the dead live forever. We wish fast healing to the wounded.