Netanyahu, prepare now to ensure Israeli Lag Ba'omer safety - Meron panel

While Lag Ba'omer is five months away, the committee members wrote that they felt the matter was urgent and brought it to Netanyahu's attention.

Jewish worshippers sing and dance as they stand on tribunes at the Lag Ba’omer event on Mount Meron on April 29. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
Jewish worshippers sing and dance as they stand on tribunes at the Lag Ba’omer event on Mount Meron on April 29.
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to already begin preparations for the May Lag Ba'omer holiday to ensure the safety of celebrants in a letter issued by the Mount Meron Disaster Commission on Sunday.

“For the upcoming celebration, the involvement of the government is urgently required in the implementation of the interim recommendations, in particular appointment of a dedicated minister,” wrote committee head Dvora Berliner, and committee members Mordechai Karelitaz and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Yanai. 

“For the upcoming celebration, the involvement of the government is urgently required in the implementation of the interim recommendations, in particular appointment of a dedicated minister.”

Mount Meron Disaster Commission

On Monday, just a day after the letter’s publication, religious Israeli media reported that MK Meir Porush would be responsible for Meron celebrations. Porush demanded the positions as part of coalition agreement negotiations in early December, but as reported by Walla, some involved in the negotiations were concerned that the United Torah Judaism politician would go against some of the committee’s recommendations. 

Preventing another Lag Ba'omer disaster on Mount Meron

The committee, formed in the wake of the Mount Meron crowd crush incident that claimed the lives of 45 people and left dozens injured in April 2021, said that these specific actions would be needed for optimal preparations and coordination between relevant authorities.

 FUNERAL FOR brothers Yosef David Elhadar and Moshe Mordechai Elhadar (opposite, far right), killed in the Meron tragedy; flames of remembrance for 45 victims; both May 2, 2021.  (credit: FLASH90) FUNERAL FOR brothers Yosef David Elhadar and Moshe Mordechai Elhadar (opposite, far right), killed in the Meron tragedy; flames of remembrance for 45 victims; both May 2, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)

While Lag Ba'omer is five months away, the committee members wrote that they felt the matter was urgent, and demanded the matter be brought to the attention of Netanyahu following the swearing in of his government on Thursday.

Netanyahu was prime minister when the Meron disaster occurred. In August, the committee issued warnings that the then-opposition leader could be one of the individuals deemed to be responsible. Netanyahu has argued that he can’t be held responsible for an issue of which he was unaware

The letter also noted that the committee had previously provided recommendations to former prime minister Yair Lapid to prepare for the holiday celebrations. Lapid said in October that a group would be formed to review the recommendations. 

The committee recommended that the number of celebrants be limited at the Meron site, light only one big traditional bonfire as opposed to many smaller ones. The committee also called for infrastructure at the site to be altered – unsafe or illegal structures to be removed and areas available to pilgrims to be expanded to prevent congestion.  

The Mount Meron disaster was the worst civilian mass casualty event in Israeli history. 

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.