'Horrors': Border Police commander recounts Meron experience

Itzhak was charged with leading dozens of Border Police officers as the chaotic night dragged on.

Mourners attend the funeral of one of the victims of the Meron stampede that took place on Lag Ba'omer. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mourners attend the funeral of one of the victims of the Meron stampede that took place on Lag Ba'omer.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Border Police Superintendent Shlomi Itzhak was at the Mount Meron when a tragic stampede took place, claiming the lives of 45 worshipers and injuring over 150 people: "The horrors that I saw will stay with me for a long time." 
Itzhak was charged with leading dozens of Border Police officers as the chaotic night dragged on. 
"The drive up to [Mount] Meron took longer than usual," he recounted, "which already set the warning tone for the night." 
Another fact which added to the negative warning tone of the night: "Some of the officers showed up late." 
Once everyone was there and was ready to go, Itzhak organized the 38 policemen under his command into three different groups. "Their main goal," he said, "was to make sure that traffic was flowing and that there would, at all times, be space for emergency medical services to come through if they are needed." 
After a debrief detailing the main bonfire-lighting times for the night and emphasizing the importance of asserting police presence when clearing traffic, as well as a cup of strong coffee, Itzhak sent his men off to their stations. 
The night started out with the "happiness, music, and general atmosphere that takes place during Jewish celebrations," accompanied by "expressions of thanks from passersby."
"All that changed in an instant."
Itzhak got an urgent call from one of his officers: The disaster was starting. 
"The sheer speed with which the atmosphere in the area had changed was incomprehensible to me," he recounted. "Meanwhile, there are still celebratory songs playing across the area, and I find myself sending more and more officers to clear out the area for first aid responders to get through." 
Itzhak had to simultaneously make sure that none of his officers were harmed along the way. 
Civilians helped them clear a path for the medics. 
"Only on that night did I truly understand just how delicate and breakable the human body is, for all of its wonders," said Itzhak. 
"The horrors that I saw will stay with me for a long time – the stretchers just kept on coming."
When the morning came, they continued in their efforts to identify the bodies while simultaneously beginning their transfer down to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine.