Israeli Pilgrimage Disaster Investigation Calls for Upper Limit for Visitors and Food – Middle East Monitor

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An Israeli state investigation into a scrum that killed 45 people, including Americans and Canadians, at a Jewish pilgrimage site in April recommended Monday that future entries be limited and ceremonies streamlined to prevent overcrowding. Reuters reported.

The panel, chaired by a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, presented interim results designed to help the authorities organize the next festival in Meron, the second-century Galilean tomb of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, from May 18-19 May to plan better.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual commemorations could draw up to 200,000 devotees for nightly prayer, mystical songs, picnics, and dances around campfires.

Tens of thousands came to the pilgrimage site on April 30th on a hill that covers about 5.6 hectares. As a crowd poured into a narrow tunnel, 45 men and boys were suffocated or trampled to death. Six victims were Americans and two Canadians.

“The material presented to the commission and the testimony it heard show that the maximum number of people who can be safely trapped in the area at one time is approximately 20,000,” the panel said in a 16-page report.

While no destination number is recommended, more space could be created by banning tents and pirate vendors on the premises and by holding a central campfire ceremony.

READ: Israeli investigation into fatal rush hears first witness

Pilgrims could be encouraged to turn around by driving them in and out with tickets that are valid for specific hours, the panel said. It advised against allowing food in order to “reduce the length of stay (and) the chance of falling and slipping on garbage”.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s administration signaled that it would implement the results.

“The celebrations at Meron in 2022 will be completely different from the previous ones and will take place according to different safety standards,” said Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana in a statement.

The panel deals separately with a possible guilt of the planners for the April celebrations, which took place under the previous administration of Benjamin Netanyahu.


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