14-Day news roundup: Meron tragedy

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

The bodies of the victims of the tragedy at Mount Meron on Lag Ba'omer. (photo credit: SHAY YERUSHALMI/BEHADREI HAREDIM/REUTERS)
The bodies of the victims of the tragedy at Mount Meron on Lag Ba'omer.


Israel held a national day of mourning on May 2 for 45 people crushed to death two days earlier in a stampede after a Lag Ba’omer celebration attended by an estimated 100,000 people on Mount Meron. Flags flew at half mast on public buildings, military bases and Israeli embassies around the world after the country buried the victims. “There must be and will be a thorough, in-depth and real investigation to discover how and why this happened,” said Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, offering condolences to the families of the victims and wishes for a swift recovery to some 150 people injured in the worst civilian tragedy in Israel’s history. 


President Reuven Rivlin on May 5 gave Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid  the chance to form a coalition after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  failed to do so. Lapid has until June 2 to consolidate his so-called “bloc for change” and establish what he called a unity government with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. “We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate each other,” Lapid said before he and Bennett began marathon talks to strike a deal in which they would rotate the premiership. Bennett urged rightwing parties to join “a broad emergency government” to avoid a fifth election in two years.


The US voiced concern about violent clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City and in East Jerusalem in early May,  urging Israeli and Palestinian officials “to act decisively to deescalate tensions.”  The tensions reached a peak on the night of May 7, when some 200 Palestinians and 20 Israeli policemen were wounded in clashes in the Old City after the last Friday prayers for Ramadan.  The violence came  ahead of Jerusalem Day on May 10 amid Palestinian anger over the  threatened eviction of residents rom the Arab neighborhoods of  Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.


terror Yehuda Guetta, 19. a student at the Itamar Yeshiva, died at Beilinson Hospital on May 5, three days after he was wounded in a terrorist drive-by shooting at the Tapuah Junction in Samaria. Guetta, from Jerusalem, is survived by parents, four brothers and two sisters. Two other young men were wounded in the attack, and one of them – Benaya Peretz, 19, from Beit She’an – was listed in very serious condition. Israeli security forces apprehended the alleged gunman, a Palestinian American businessman whom they identified as Muntasir Shalabi, 44.


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree postponing the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively amid an alleged dispute with Israel over voting in East Jerusalem. Abbas said the elections would be delayed “until the participation of our people in Jerusalem is guaranteed.” Palestinian commentators said Abbas might have used the Jerusalem issue as a pretext to avoid elections that his Fatah party could lose to its Islamist rivals, Hamas, amid a direct leadership challenge from jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.


Israel’s Delek Drilling announced on April 26 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding to sell its entire stake in the Tamar offshore gas field to Abu Dhabi’s government-owned Mubadala Petroleum for $1 billion. The companies said they aimed to finalize the deal, the biggest commercial agreement since the two countries signed a normalization pact in August 2020, by May 31.


Greer Fay Cashman, a veteran Australian-born journalist who writes for The Jerusalem Post and is also a frequent contributor to The Jerusalem Report, is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem’s 2021 prizes for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage. In its announcement, B’nai B’rith noted that Cashman, the author of the popular “Grapevine” column who covers the president’s office, has worked at the Post for more than 45 years. Other prizes were awarded to Nurit Canetti, editor-in-chief of Galei Zahal (Army Radio) and Dan Lavie, Diaspora Affairs correspondent for the Israel Hayom newspaper.