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Israel prepares for Lag B'Omer pilgrimage to Mt. Meron two years after 45 people were crushed to death

2021 tragedy ranks as modern Israel's worst civilian disaster

Grand Rabbi of Shomer Emunim and his followers light a bonfire a day before the Lag Ba'Omer celebrations, in Meron, May 7, 2023. (Photo: David Cohen/Flash90)

Israeli authorities are carefully preparing security arrangements ahead of the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to Mount Meron two years after at least 45 individuals were crushed to death and hundreds wounded following a large rush of attendees attempting to exit the site. The tragedy still ranks as Israel's worst civilian disasters in modern history.

Overcrowding, poor organization and inadequate infrastructure are widely believed to have caused the mass tragedy in 2021. The stampede took place at the religious site’s exit route, which was known as a potentially dangerous bottleneck. Pandemonium ensued as worshippers were unable to exit and rescue workers unable to enter.

Approximately 100,000 pilgrims visited the sacred mountain in northern Israel at the time of the disaster. This year, Israeli authorities reportedly will not permit more than 50,000 pilgrims at a time during at the event. In addition, participants will only be allowed to stay at the site for a maximum of five hours in order to avoid overcrowding.

Every year ultra-Orthodox Jews visit the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, outside the town of Meron. 

Following the tragedy two years ago, Israeli authorities expanded the main complex with new and improved infrastructure. Some 8,000 police officers are tasked with providing security around the tomb and the nearby town. 

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who recently visited the site, expressed hope that this year’s event would be peaceful and secure. 

“It is still early to conclude but I see the professionalism, and I hope, pray and believe in you that this event will pass safely,” said Ben Gvir. 

In 2022, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the country invested significant resources in preventing future disasters at the religious site. 

“The Government of Israel has made a considerable investment in order to facilitate an extensive and safe participation,” vowed Bennett. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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