Thursday night marked thirty days since 45 people were tragically killed in a crowd rush disaster at Mount Meron.
The worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history, an additional 102 were wounded in the stampede. To mark the event, members of the families gathered at the Western Wall to say kaddish, a prayer that praises God which is traditionally recited by those in mourning.
In Judaism, mourning is marked by set time periods, with an initial seven days of mourning, followed by the 30the day after burial, and finally, a one-year period of mourning for immediate relatives. When mourning all relatives except one’s parents, the mourning period concludes following the morning service of the 30th day (Shloshim). Traditionally, families gather on the eve of the Shloshim to share support, recite prayers and Psalms, and to give charity in the merit of the deceased.
United Hatzalah, the emergency response team that was pushed beyond its limits that night, held an event commemorating the tragedy. Hundreds of their volunteer first responders joined together in sober song in front of bleachers set up with photographs of the victims. Eli Beer, the founder of Hatzalah, made a video walk-through of the area where the tragedy took place.
The tragedy took place on April 30 on the holiday of Lag Ba’omer when over 100,000 people were gathered at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron. The event has always been one of the most challenging for police and emergency and an estimated 5,000 policemen were deployed.
Unfortunately, an investigation into the disaster has become mired in divisive politics and has yet to be initiated. As a result, a Shavuot celebration on May 16 held by the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic sect in Givat Ze’’ev ended in yet another tragedy as a grandstand collapsed under the weight of dancing worshipers, killing two and wounding over 200.
Lag Ba’Omer is celebrated on the 33rd day of the 49-day counting (seven complete weeks) of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot which culminates in the holiday of Shavuot when an offering of two loaves of wheat bread was brought in the Temple. The name of the holiday is derived from its position in the counting of the Omer since ‘Lag’ is spelled by the two Hebrew letters lamed and gimel, which in gematria (Hebrew numerology) equal 33. Before the pandemic, the minor holiday became a major pilgrimage with an estimated 250,000 Israelis gathering at the site.