Dozens Killed in Worst Peacetime Tragedy in Israel’s History

April 30, 2021

by: Ilse Strauss

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Ultra-Orthodox worshipers flock to Mount Meron annually to celebrate Lag B’Omer.

Friday, 30 April 2021 | Israel was plunged into mourning as dozens of people—including small children—were killed and hundreds more injured in a mass stampede at a religious gathering early this morning in what is being described as the worst peacetime tragedy in the history of the modern state.

The deadly crush occurred at the foot of Mount Meron in northern Israel, where nearly 100,000 ultra-Orthodox worshipers had gathered for Lag B’Omer festivities. The holiday—which is said to commemorate the end of a deadly plague some 2,000 years ago that killed nearly 25,000 people—annually draws a large crowd, with tens of thousands from across the country streaming to the site of a famous second-century rabbi to spend the evening in prayer, study, dancing, singing and celebrating around massive bonfires dotting the mountainside.

Last night’s crowd was much larger than normal. It was, after all, the first major public gathering allowed since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and after being cooped up for over a year, people were eager to be out and about again. Yet in a catastrophic twist, the celebration marking the end of a plague some two millennia ago and the first foray into normalcy after a modern day plague ended in terrible tragedy.

A mass stampede broke out shortly after midnight. While the exact cause of the crush remains unclear, it seems like people within the streaming crowd slipped while making their way down an incline on a slick metal walkway within a narrowly enclosed corridor, falling on those below them, creating a deadly domino effect. Victims were trampled underfoot and crushed against the enclosures with no means of escape.

Survivors this morning shared tales of horror as they remained pinned next to dead friends, relatives and perfect strangers as they waited for first responders and rescue workers to fight their way through the milling crowds to reach the wounded.

“It felt like an eternity,” a survivor told Ynetnews. “The dead were all around us.”

The complicated rescue efforts continued throughout the early morning hours as ambulances and helicopters were used to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.

Heartbreaking pictures from the scene offer glimpses of last night’s carnage: abandoned personal objects and even bits of baby strollers trampled in the chaos, rescue workers carrying the bodies of those who perished covered in blankets and bags and rows of body bags, a grim reminder of the human toll.

This morning, the death toll stands at 44 people—including small children—crushed to death and more than 150 injured, 23 critically.

A Zaka (voluntary community emergency response teams in Israel) official described the scene as the worst he has ever encountered. “Without getting graphic,” he said, “I’ve been with Zaka for decades. I’ve never seen anything like this…We don’t know exactly what happened, but the result is unthinkable.”

“We just finished treating one of Israel’s worst disasters. A terrible disaster of people who came to celebrate Lag B’Omer and were unfortunately crushed to death,” said United Hatzalah (volunteer-based emergency medical services organization) vice president of operations Dov Maisel.

“This was a very difficult site—sites that we have not seen here in Israel since the worst days of the terrorist wave back during the early 2000s,” he said.

As the people of Israel mourn, we recall God’s clarion call to us in Isaiah 40:1: “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” We invite Christians from around the world to unite with us in prayer as we pray for a quick recovery for the injured, peace for the traumatized and comfort for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Posted on April 30, 2021

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 30, 2021)

Photo Credit: VINnews/youtube/screenshot

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