The first foreign lawsuits seeking damages for the loss of relatives in the Mount Meron tragedy were filed on Thursday, on behalf of the family of some of the youngest victims of the 2021 deadly crowd crush, the families' lawyer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The New Jersey families of Elazar Yitzahk Koltai, 13, and Donny Morris, 19, are seeking NIS 3.5 million each in damages from the authorities that had overseen the holy site at the time of the Lag BaOmer holiday accident, which saw 45 killed and almost 150 injured.
"Azi was a matana [present] from Hashem," said the Koltai's parents, Robert and Sue. "He was of a pure heart filled with love of Torah and family. He is missed by us all every day. Our goal by this claim is to ensure that such a collective tragedy to all of Klal Yisroel does not happen by the negligent acts of the authorities."
Morris's parents, Aryeh and Mirlana said that "In the two years since Donny was taken from us not a moment goes by where we don’t think about him and miss him. His shining example of how to make every moment matter continues to impact people across the globe".
Why are the families suing?
The families alleged that several authorities and organizations responsible for the site had engaged in negligence despite several warnings about the safety and infrastructure issues.
The State of Israel is the first respondent to the suit, through bodies such as the Israel Police, Interior Ministry, the Tourism Ministry and other authorities that were supposed to be responsible for security and safety at tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a site of pilgrimage on Mount Meron. The Marom HaGalil regional council and three religious councils were also sued for their role in organizing the event.
The National Center for the Development of Holy Sites in Israel was sued as a place that was supposed to have conducted maintenance at the site. Inquiries have found the infrastructure at the site unsuitable for the thousands of people who often visited during holidays. The fire departments for the east Golan and lower Galilee were consequently also included in the suit, since they had given safety permits for site. The engineering and safety company BCS was included for safety and planning at the site.
"Two years after the terrible disaster that shook the entire country, a tragedy in which the Koltai and Morris families lost what was dearest to them, we submitted the legal proceedings with the state authorities, which will bring the families a little relief," said Gideon Fisher & Co. attorneys Daphna Fisher and Sharon Yermiyahu. "There is no denying that those entrusted with the order and security of the worshipers failed in their responsibility."
The attorneys told The Post that other families from abroad should also consider pursuing damages for the loss of their loved ones.