Israel Police reverse original ban on Baba Sali Hiloula

The Israel Police approved the event despite its original ban due to security and COVID concerns, after the district commander and mayor toured the area.

 Religous Jewish men pray at a "Hilula" celebration in honor of Baba Sali (" the Praying Father"), marking 34 years since his death, at his tomb complex in the city of Netivot on January 10, 2018 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Religous Jewish men pray at a "Hilula" celebration in honor of Baba Sali (" the Praying Father"), marking 34 years since his death, at his tomb complex in the city of Netivot on January 10, 2018
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Following a field tour Thursday morning in Netivot, led by Peretz Amar, the Southern District police commander, the ban was lifted on commemorating the anniversary of the death of Baba Sali, which will take place next week near his grave.

The police insisted, however, that the grave itself will be fenced off.

The tour was accompanied by Mayor Yehiel Zohar,  representatives of the Baba Sali Association and representatives of the Fire Authority and Magen David Adom.

At the end of the tour it was decided to lift the ban subject to meeting safety requirements.

In the original ban, due to fears to physical security as well as spreading the Omicron variant of COVID-19, police estimated the commemoration would be attended by over 100,000 people.

 Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, Minister of Interior Affairs Aryeh Deri and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef seen at the gravesite of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira (credit: YAAKOV COHEN/FLASH90) Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, Minister of Interior Affairs Aryeh Deri and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef seen at the gravesite of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira (credit: YAAKOV COHEN/FLASH90)

The site, which can only hold up to 300 people, would present a serious risk to the security of those attending the event, according to the police.

Due to the Mount Meron tragedy last Lag Ba’omer, where 45 people were killed after a stampede at the religious bonfire-lighting ceremony there, police are anxious to prevent any similar tragedy.

Right-wing and religious MKs, including Shas MK Ya’acov Margi and Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich, were critical of the original ban.

The masses will “vote with their feet and the Hiloula will take place,” regardless of police orders, Margi said on the Knesset plenum. The Shas MK also claimed that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Israel will march to Netivot to protest the ban.

Smotrich branded the ban “disgraceful” and made comparisons to secular New Year’s celebrations that are set to take place without restrictions.