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Ultra-Orthodox pilgrims frustrated by security restrictions at Lag B'Omer ceremony

Two years ago, largest civilian tragedy in Israel occurred at the Meron pilgrimage site

Grand rabbi of Boyan seen near a bonfire during Lag B'Omer celebrations in Meron, May 8, 2023. (Photo: David Cohen/Flash90)

Israel has imposed strict security arrangements at the Meron pilgrimage site, following two years since at least 45 individuals were crushed to death, in what the Jewish state ranks as its worst civilian disaster in modern Israeli history. Poor organization, inadequate infrastructure, and overcrowding were major factors behind the lethal tragedy in 2021.

Israeli authorities have consequently upgraded the infrastructure and only permit a maximum of 50,000 pilgrims at a time to attend the religious site. By comparison, some 100,000 mostly ultra-Orthodox pilgrims gathered at the Meron site in 2021, when the deadly catastrophe took place.

While Israeli authorities seek to improve security arrangements at the Mt. Meron pilgrimage site, the restrictions clash with the traditions of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel.

Yitzhak Kazin, a 37-year-old ultra-Orthodox resident from Bnei Brak in central Israel, expressed his frustration with the restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities.

“They don’t want us to come here, that’s the truth,” asserted Kazin, accusing Israeli authorities of seeking to split up the ultra-Orthodox community members.

“So they divide us, send some of us here and some of us there. Because to them, we’re nothing but a nuisance.”

“They want me to go downhill. I didn’t come from Bnei Brak to be on some hill. I came to be near Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,” stated Kazin, referring to the revered rabbi’s grave which attracts tens of thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox visitors each year.

Israeli authorities deployed some 8,000 police officers to secure the Mt. Meron religious site and the nearby town.

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

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