The grim mood was accompanied by fierce public debate and accusations about the behavior of key public officials as well as Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities, from which most of the dead and wounded originate.
Early Sunday morning, officials from the Institute of Forensic Medicine said all bodies had been identified, with all but one being transferred to families for burial. The final body is expected to be released within the next few hours.
Tensions are high in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, with some people angry that the process was not completed before the start of Shabbat, meaning they had to wait more than a day to bury their relatives.
Police reported that dozens of ultra-Orthodox men blocked a main street in Jerusalem and set garbage ablaze during a protest on Saturday night.
Politically, much of the initial blame for the mountain top disaster was focused on Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, whose ministry includes police responsibility.
Ohana, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and one of the prime minister’s staunch allies, made an appearance at the festival just hours before the crush.
He took to Facebook on Saturday night to congratulate the police officers involved and said he accepts responsibility for what happened, but not the blame.
“I am responsible, but responsibility does not mean blame. The celebration of this year took place like every year, for hundreds of years, even before the creation of the State of Israel. At the time of the disaster, there were fewer people living on the mountain than in normal years, much less. This disaster happened this year, but could have happened another year, ”he wrote at the end of a long post.
Eyewitness accounts suggest that the incident – at Mount Meron in the north of the country – happened as a dense crowd of people tried to leave one of the main festival venues on a narrow, sloping alley.
People began to slide to the ground and fall to the ground, with people behind them falling on top of them causing crushing and suffocation, witnesses said.
An official with knowledge of the death list told CNN they expected the death toll to include five U.S. citizens. Two Canadians were also killed in the lightning strike, according to a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
More than 100 people have been injured, according to the health ministry. Four remained in serious condition in hospital on Saturday evening.
Public Security Minister Ohana’s sentiments echoed in part comments made the day before by Shlomo Levi, former head of the Merom HaGalil Regional Council, where the annual religious festival takes place.
He told Channel 13 News that the mountain had been “a time bomb for years” and continued, “I knew this would happen, and I even issued a warrant to shut down the site. But the police could not. not apply it, and the Minister of Public Security was under pressure [to keep it open]. ”
Last year a much smaller event took place, but in some years up to 400,000 people attend, according to informed estimates, to sing, dance and light fires at the burial place of sage Rabbi Shimon Bar. Second century Yochai.
Levi told Channel 13 News he blamed the leaders of the predominantly Hasidic sects participating in the Lag B’Omer festival, as well as their political representatives in government, for running what he described as “a Mafia “who controlled the festival site.
“This mountain is strange. It is supposed to be clean and religious when in fact it is corrupt in the full sense of the word,” he said.
“In Israel, there are places that are outside the competence of the police, autonomies where the state does not even try to assert its sovereignty. Rabbi Shimon’s tomb is an autonomy, as are the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, ”he wrote.
Increasingly indicating that the tolerance many Israelis feel for the ultra-Orthodox may be slipping, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has denounced the abuses she said her female soldiers had. suffered while participating in rescue and recovery efforts at the festival site.
In a strongly worded statement, the IDF said: “ At the start of the Home Front Command’s assistance operation at the Mount Meron funeral complex, some of those present began to verbally and physically injure the women. IDF fighters, who were on their way to evacuate the wounded. The force continued its mission ignoring the abusive behavior. The IDF takes the incident very seriously and condemns all violence, physical or verbal, against its soldiers, women and men.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, himself a former chief of staff, tweeted his support for the IDF statement.
Two of Israel’s top politicians, Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, traveled to Mount Meron on Friday to express their condolences and vow that such a catastrophe will not happen again.
Both men were heckled by the ultra-Orthodox still present at the site, with many accusing police of the deadly rush. “They closed the barricades until people couldn’t breathe and died,” a man yelled at Bennett.
In comments tweeted on Friday morning, the leader of the Knesset’s largest ultra-Orthodox party, Aryeh Deri of Shas, wrote: “The heart is torn … our dance has turned into mourning. I am calling the audience. to pray and tear down the gates of heaven for the healing of the wounded, to support and strengthen the families who have lost their loved ones … May God wipe a tear from all faces. Amen. “
Neither Deri nor his counterpart from the other ultra-Orthodox party represented in parliament, Moshe Gafney of Unified Torah Judaism, addressed the claims of accountability.
Both men are absolutely essential to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s continued attempts to form a new government after the inconclusive elections in March.