Dozens of people broke through police barriers set up in Mount Meron on Thursday, broke down the mechitza (partitions) between the men's and women's compound, threw fences amid riots and endangered the lives of those present at the scene. Later, the rioters even began vandalizing the tomb complex. Some of the rioters also damaged a number of police vehicles and even threw stones at the police.
The policemen stationed at the scene evacuated the women and children from the riot scene and continued to operate at the scene, in order to prevent crowding and risk to lives. Following the events, the commissioner in charge of the celebration decided to announce its end, earlier than planned.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev stated: "After the first day and night of merriment at Meron, which passed successfully and without special events, groups of extremist fanatic Haredim arrived today to the mountain, behaved violently and savagely, sabotaged the infrastructure that was set up at the site and endangered the safety and security of those who came to celebrate the event.
"This is an extreme and uncontrolled ultra-Orthodox minority, which challenges the law and order in the State of Israel, acts violently and harms not only the existence of a spiritual-religious event but also tens of thousands of citizens who want to celebrate it. Following these incidents, the authorities in charge of the place on behalf of the state have decided to end the revelry, and I fully support them as a result. Israel Police will continue to act responsibly and professionally to ensure the safety and security of those present on the mountain."
Thousands flocked to Meron this year for the Lag Ba'omer celebrations. Last year, a stampede led to the deaths of 45 worshipers.
Walla reporter Yaki Admakar, who was in Meron, described the events in a conversation on 103FM: "A group of extremists from the circles of the ultra-Orthodox community arrived at the scene, and in a pre-planned move, they broke through all the checkpoints at the entrance to the tomb complex. This is a complex that has been run in the last day in an exemplary manner, just like a conveyor belt. People came in and out, and stayed in the place for an average of five seconds per person."
"They just broke through all the checkpoints, passed all the cops and they're all now in the tomb area. It happened in such a way that eventually the police lost control, and abandoned the whole area," he added on 103FM at the time. "I am near the tomb site and there are currently no police or ushers here. At this point, they have decided to completely stop all access to Meron, for fear of human life. It has a dramatic impact on thousands of people who are on their way to the site."
"In fact, the story is that the extremists wanted to prove that they managed to defeat the police and the authorities. The one who paid the price is the sane public, who now can not celebrate. The police are not to blame, the extremists came to make a mess on purpose in the first place," he added, stressing that "in the end there is really no ability to know this in advance, and there is no reason to stop them in advance. They came to the compound, saw that a commotion could be made and carried out what they planned to do."
Eden Ben Ari/103FM contributed to this report.