Tragedy marred a rehearsal for the annual celebration of Independence Day when a
10-meter-tall steel light rigging system collapsed on Wednesday afternoon at
Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring four others.
soldiers from the Color Guard who were rehearsing for next week’s ceremony were
trapped underneath the large lighting truss when it fell shortly after 3 p.m.
Hila Bezaleli, 20, was killed and another soldier was critically injured. The
other victims were injured lightly and treated at Shaare Zedek Medical Center
and Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.
Witnesses said the
steel structure was wavering dangerously in the wind, and someone called out
“It’s going to fall!” before the entire structure crashed to the ground. One
teenage Jerusalem resident, who was watching his cousin at the rehearsal, said
he saw Bezaleli lying on the ground after the columns collapsed.
were panicking, everyone ran to try to pick her up,” said the teenager, who
cannot be named because he is a minor.
Jerusalem District Police
Dep.-Cmdr. Manny Yitzhaki said police were investigating every angle of
“We will investigate the facts one by one to understand how
this happened and who is responsible,” he said.
Yitzhaki added that
police were checking how the structure was built and had detained a number of
engineers involved in its construction for questioning.
Reuven Rivlin sent his condolences in the name of the entire legislature to the
family of the soldier killed, and wished the injured a speedy
“The heavy tragedy will certainly have an influence, but with
all the sadness and pain, the Independence Day ceremony must go on,” Rivlin said after discussing the
issue with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
Minister Yuli Edelstein, whose ministry is in charge of the
Rivlin called for the preparations to continue at the same time
as the investigation.
Meanwhile, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said
there should be a commission of inquiry on the “grandiosity of the Independence
Day ceremony, which outdoes itself every year.”
Police are canvassing the
rest of the structures at the ceremony site, including bleachers intended to
seat hundreds of people, to determine if they are safe.
afternoon, four mobile intensive care units and 15 ambulances were dispatched to
the scene. Jerusalem Fire and Rescue spokesman Asaf Abras said firefighters only
understood the severity of the situation when they arrived at Mount
“I find it devastating,” he said as he looked out at the mangled
steel. Glass covered the ground from smashed lights, and spots of blood were
Abras said the lighting structure had received approval
from the fire department, which deemed it safe in terms of fire risk. Abras
explained that as a general rule, the fire department does not allow similar
lighting fixtures if wind is blowing at more than 30 knots (about 55
On Wednesday, the wind was blowing in Jerusalem around 16 knots (30
kph). But after 3 p.m., there were gusts of more than 37 knots (70 kph),
according to Nir Stav, Israel Meteorological Service deputy
Authorities are also investigating whether or not negligence
contributed to the collapse.
Bezaleli’s funeral took place on Wednesday
evening at Mount Herzl.
Sharon Udasin and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report