The biggest rally in Israel since the start of the covid-19 pandemic turned into a nightmare on Friday, when a giant stampede left at least 44 dead during an Orthodox Jewish pilgrimage to Mount Meron in northern Israel.
Rescuers had initially mentioned the collapse of stands to explain these injured, before speaking of a giant “stampede”.
Images relayed on social networks show a procession cutting through a hyper-compact crowd and approaching a metal structure where religious are standing near a fire.
“Huge disaster at Mont Méron”
The exact circumstances leading up to the mob scenes were unclear on Friday, but a rescuer Yehuda Gottleib, working for United Hatzalah, said he saw men being “crushed” and “losing consciousness”, according to his organization. .
“Huge disaster at Mount Meron,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew overnight, calling on the population to “pray to save the wounded”.
“All of Israel is praying for the healing of the survivors,” added opposition leader Yair Lapid, saying he was following the situation with “anxiety”.
Celebrate the end of an epidemic
The pilgrimage, which takes place on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer, is held in Méron, around the presumed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochaï, a Talmudist of the 2nd century of the Christian era who is credited with writing the Zohar , central work of Jewish mysticism. Lag Baomer is a joyous celebration, which also marks the memory of the end of a devastating epidemic among the pupils of a Talmudic school at that time.
The authorities had allowed the presence of 10,000 people in the enclosure of the tomb but, according to the organizers, more than 650 buses were chartered in all the country, that is to say at least 30,000 people, while the local press reported 100 000 people on site.
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