Ten minutes ago, I got back from Meron.
***Update: Video of police blocking the exit in Meron, below***
Or at least, I got back from trying to be in Meron. We left at 1.30am, and the plan was to get there for around 4.00 ish so we could catch the last bonfires and daven the sunrise minyan.
At around 2.30am, I got a frantic phone call from my daughter, who had got a job as a sadranit in the tomb of Rashbi this year.
Her job was to move the crowds of women in the kever along, so no-one would stay more than a few minutes inside.
She – sadly – had a birds’ eye view of everything that was happening outside.
I had no idea that anything was going on.
The first thing I knew was when my daughter called me up sobbing hysterically that ‘lots of people had got mashed outside’ and 15 people (at that point) had died.
What? What are you saying?
She tried to explain that people had got crushed in ‘the new way that the police built’ – and I was really struggling to understand what she was saying.
But as soon as I understood that the police had built a new, blocked off ‘way’, and that’s where people had been crushed to death – I felt in my bones that whatever had happened in Meron, this was no accident.
Yesterday, before I went up, I read a bunch of yucky warnings from the Israeli government bemoaning how they wouldn’t be able to enforce their ‘green passports’ in Meron, and making ominous statements like this:
A senior official involved in preparing the plan for Lag Ba’omer on Thursday told Kan News that, “Anyone going to Meron needs to know that his blood is on his own head, and that he may be exposed to coronavirus patients who are walking around unsupervised.”
Even in Covid-19 world, the statements sounded totally OTT and melodramatic.
Now, I’m wondering if it wasn’t someone trying to warn people away because they knew what was going to go down there.
So we’re driving up in half-stunned silence, when my friend in the USA starts texting me updates.
What actually happened? I asked her, as our cars always seem to have difficulty picking up the radio, even when I want them to.
The bleachers collapsed, she wrote back.
Ah. That made more sense…. I know Meron well, and I just couldn’t understand how so many people – at that point 30 – could be crushed to death the way it’s normally configured – at least not outside the tomb itself.
Then I was thinking about it, and I thought:
How would the bleachers collapse, just like that? They are permanent structures?
Again, the horrible thought arose that what had happened couldn’t be an accident.
On the approach to Karmiel, where we usually park n’ ride, we passed a convoy of around 12 ambulances, one after another, with lights blaring, on the other side of the road.
That’s when the tragedy started to get real for me, and I started to feel pretty sad.
In the meantime, I had more texts coming in from various people, and was checking on another teen in my home who’d gone up to Meron.
Thank God he was OK, physically, but he was caught in the middle of the crush and found himself stepping on other people.
As soon as I finish typing, I’m doing a pidyon nefesh for him, and for my daughter, to hopefully avert any massive PTSD trauma from experiencing all this.
There was a lot of weird stuff going on.
Usually, you can’t get past Karmiel on the 85 into Meron, but while their were police cars on the road, they didn’t stop us.
Or anyone else.
So, we travelled on to Tsfat, and arranged to try and meet our daughter there, once the transportation out of Meron would start up again.
In the car on the way, I got another text from my friend in the USA:
Do you think this was planned by the government?
It just came to me after I lit my candles for the souls of those killed.
> It was my first thought.
My husband counselled me not to jump to conclusions, but my heart was whispering to me all night that this was no accident.
In Tsfat, we drove down to the old cemetery, and I went to say some Pirchei Nevorchim for the people who were dead and injured.
Or at least, I tried to.
For the first 20 minutes or so, I just felt kind of numb.
I was watching all the blue and red lights whizz up and down the road leading from Tsfat to Meron. In the dark, they really stood out.
Then, a group of chareidi men started trying to dance and sing a little, on the men’s side, and I had such mixed feelings about that, even though I know Rabbenu teaches that dancing cancels the harsh decrees.
As I was sitting there pondering all this, I got another text from my friend in the USA:
It’s a privilege to dance before the fire of Hashem. I think we need to dance before Hashem more.
How did she know, what I was looking at right then, and what I was thinking?
As the sun started to rise, I had the Ari pretty much to myself, as all the men went to daven netz.
I was in text contact with the teenagers stuck in Meron, and as the magnitude of what had happened sunk in a bit more – and what they both saw and witnessed – I started davening fervently that they shouldn’t have any long-lasting PTSD from all this.
And that somehow, this horrible incident should lead to some ‘healing’ for them, and for Am Yisrael, and not more pain and heartache and destruction.
It took my kid more than 3 hours to make the short trip between Meron and Tsfat.
The buses were jammed on the road, hardly moving.
When she finally showed up, I just gave her a big hug, as she settled down in the back of the car to sleep.
She didn’t want to talk, just sleep.
It’s an escape route from reality.
I totally get it.
In the car on the way home, more texts arrived from other friends who knew we were going up to Meron, checking we were OK.
And also telling me that no bleachers had collapsed after all.
So, what really happened?
That argument will probably continue to rage for the next few weeks.
But here’s what I read when I came home and logged on to see ‘official news reports’ of the tragedy:
Some of the pilgrims blamed the police for locking the gatherers in closed off areas, and essentially creating the crowd that then led to the stampede.“A policeman saw the crowd but instead of opening an escape path for people, he threatened them with pepper spray,” Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Yossi Daitch who was at the scene told the Behadrei Hadarim website.
United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollack told The Jerusalem Post that the incident occurred when large crowds of people streamed into a closed-in complex, crushing dozens of people against fences.
Two hours before the unfathomable mass casualty occurred, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitsch warned the police that a tragedy was imminent, B’Chadrei Chareidim reported.
Deitsch told B’Chadrei that he took part in the Boyaner hadlaka two hours before the tragedy and already then he felt the dangerous crushing force of the crowd. “I was being crushed in an unprecedented manner,” he said.
Due to the crowding, he decided to give up on his usual custom of standing and davening at the western entrance, next to the area where the tragedy occurred, and returned home early.
44 people were crushed to death against ‘new fences’ that the Israeli Police erected in Meron, that weren’t there in previous years.
Every year, half a million people go to Meron – and it’s been that way for at least the last 5-6 years, and this never happened before.
Ma nishtana, halilah ha-zeh?
The new fences that the police erected, to pin visitors in like so many fish in a barrel, which totally changed the usual layout of the area.
And even when they were warned earlier in the evening by the deputy mayor of Jerusalem that this new situation they’d created was very dangerous, and leading to ‘unprecedented’ crowding – they totally ignored him, and let the inevitable tragedy occur.
So you tell me:
Was this an accident, or was it pre-meditated murder?
I’m so sick of the evil people running this country, and ruining this world.
I’m so sick of their evil, murderous vendetta against religious Jews and authentic Judaism.
I have no idea how this is going to affect my kid, and the other teen in my house that witnessed it first hand, and I’m already worrying about that.
It’s enough already.
Please turn all this horrible suffering around for the good, now.
We can’t take it any more.
More facts are coming out, that show the police deliberately created the situation that led to the carnage.
The only question is whether it’s manslaughter or pre-meditated murder.
“More than one person recounted that they saw police block off one end of the passageway to prevent further crowding. The fatal result was that the people inside the passageway were crushed to death….
“…One witness from Beit Shemesh recounted incriminating information about the police in a radio interview:
“The whole time there were people passing through and everything was going smoothly. Suddenly there was terrible crowding. I looked up and saw five police officers who were simply standing there and stopping people from passing.
“People begged, cried, screamed that they’re going to die, that they can’t breathe, but they didn’t open the passageway. Children were fainting in their parents’ arms. When the police finally allowed people through, everyone collapsed one on top of the other.”
It’s very hard to explain this as just ‘negligence’.
You don’t block exits, and refuse to let people out of confined spaces, and threaten them with pepper spray if you’re trying to ‘prevent overcrowding’.
My daughter told me more details of what was going on that are very hard to explain or justify, in terms of how you would manage a situation if you were trying to save people’s lives, and not just trying to add to the crush and the confusion.
Like, for example, the police ordering all of the pilgrims to leave the Kever, all at once, and to head towards the exits, all at once.
This was not just the tragedy of ‘Toldos Aharon’.
They are starting to release the names, and so far, each person has belonged to a different community, a different city – even a different country.
This was mamash the tragedy of all of Am Yisrael.
And from the ashes of this very bitter L’Ag B’Omer, our nation will rise with renewed strength, with renewed achdut, and with a renewed determination to finally ‘destroy the evil within our midst’ once and for all.
UPDATE #2: VIDEO OF POLICE BLOCKING THE EXIT IN MERON
This video is already being flagged as ‘inappropriate’ – the first stage to them trying to remove it. So, if you can’t view it on Youtube, below, I’m also uploading it straight on the site.
It’s very upsetting, to see how the police caused this situation to happen, be warned.
But we can’t duck the truth. We have to face it head on – because otherwise, they will just keep doing what they are doing to religious Jews in Israel.
And I don’t want to see any more people being killed.
UPDATE #4: THIS IS WHAT THEY WERE AIMING AT, ALL ALONG:
The State of Israel is waging an all-out war against religious Jews, and our beliefs and practices.
It’s going after everything holy.
But from all this, something very good is going to sprout.
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