This Week Today: Meron Tragedy, Samaria Shooting, Arab Riots in Jerusalem, and more…

by Ben Packer

Current Events from Israel: Unfortunately the big news in Israel this week is the terrible tragedy in Meron. Forty-five people celebrating Lag b’Omer, including children, died in a very congested walkway exit. There were metal steps, it was slippery and there were a lot of people trying to pass through. No serious person thinks these deaths were intentional, but here are some indisputable facts:

1) The site of Rebbie Shimon Bar Yochai’s tomb on Mount Meron in the northern Galilee is not constructed to properly facilitate the number of people who visit it. This is especially true on Lag B’Omer, when crowds can reach over 100,000 people, but also at other times throughout the year. Since the tomb is not located in a dense urban setting, there is no reason why things can’t be significantly improved and asap.

2) The police made a fatal error by stopping the flow of people out of the exit corridor. We have mentioned the overall incompetence of the Israeli police numerous times here in the past, but this is a pretty egregious example. Of course, once they realized the dire situation, they attempted to rescue people.

3) Many regular people (and also medics/volunteers/doctors, of course) totally saved many lives. That doesn’t happen everyday. It’s the only real positive aspect that I can think of in this horrible tragedy.

Riots Continue
Speaking of Israeli police incompetence, riots and attacks on Jews continue to take place on a nightly basis throughout Jerusalem. It is true that virtually all the Arab attackers are eventually caught and arrested through use of the many surveillance cameras, but the police have been unable/willing to take measures to prevent the attacks from happening in the first place. Another week and a half to go of this wondrous month….

Many of the riots are taking place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. But here’s the thing, it’s not historically Sheikh Jarrah, it’s historically the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood, named after the famous rabbinical sage whose Tomb is located there. And by historically, I mean from roughly 2000 years ago until 1948, when the Jews were forcibly removed. There is an eviction order for 4 houses in the neighborhood to be returned to the Jewish owners this very week. Another 3-4 by the end of the summer as well. Might be their last hurrah.

Violence Leads to More Violence
The violent riots in Jerusalem have led to violent attacks on Jews in other areas as well. Just 3 days after the tragedy in Meiron, there was a shooting attack on 3 teenage Jewish yeshiva students waiting at a bus stop at the Tapuach Junction in the Shomron (Samaria). Two of the students were critically wounded and their lives continue to be in danger at this time. The security forces are searching for the terrorist in the area and have already arrested what are believed to be relatives of his who have aided him. Arab reports are that the terrorist is an American citizen. Who knows what President Biden will do with that information….

All of this comes on the heels of the official postponement of “Palestinian Authority” elections, which had been scheduled to take place later this month. As we discussed last week, there are many, including Hamas, who are not so thrilled with this decision. And for these folks, violent terrorism always seems like the best way forward.

Coalition Government Update
Rural American philosopher, Dr.Toby Keith, once famously requested “a little less talk and alot more action.” He would have undoubtedly been very frustrated by the ongoing “negotiations”/grand-standing by all those involved in Israel supposedly trying to form a coalition government. Here’s where we are now:

-After the most recent election, Prime Minister Netanyahu was given the mandate to try to form a coalition government. That mandate has now expired and he has been unsuccessful. Now President Rivlin will have to decide what to do next. He can give the mandate to someone else or simply turn it over to the Knesset so that any member who can successfully form a coalition of 61 members will be able to do that. If no one can do it, then there will be new elections.

-Naftali Bennett and his “Yamina Party” are still publicly entertaining the possibility of forming a left-wing government with Yair Lapid and the rest of the left. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been challenging Bennett to declare that he wouldn’t do such a thing, but Bennett has not said that he won’t do it, but he has said that he won’t allow a government led by Lapid. Meaning he would have to be in charge. I love it! The best part, despite winning more than 10 seats more than Bennett’s party (almost tripling their size), Lapid is openly considering this!

-Meanwhile, since the Knesset as a whole is overwhelmingly “right-wing”, just some of them really hate Netanyahu, a flurry of “right’-wing” laws were fast-tracked and will likely come up for a vote soon in the Knesset. These include legalizing approximately 70 small Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, cancelling the infamous Disengagement law, permitting the death penalty and allowing the Knesset to bypass the Supreme Court. If any of them do come up for a vote, they will likely pass, but they need to pass 3 votes and then make it through more committees – none of which is likely any time soon, especially if a left-wing government is formed. And this is exactly why Likud pushed them now – to show that. This even though the Likud have been in power for over 10 years and haven’t pushed any of these laws during that time. No doubt, Prof. Toby Keith would be furious at this point and want to put his boot up somewhere.

-The Arab “Ra’am” party is still refusing to endorse anything. Quite the poker players. Seems like alot of folks forgot they were even in the game.

Coronavirus in Israel
We are now below 90 serious cases in all of Israel and the total number of infections is about 1200. At this point, all restrictions for vaccinated people are being removed. They don’t seem to check too hard here, so that will likely affect everyone equally. It’s also pretty rare to see a mask at this point. In another few weeks, the first foreign tour groups will begin to arrive. If numbers remain low, it can be expected that individual tourists and families will be allowed entry in the next few months. The airlines already announced that they are adding tons of flights from the US to Israel. Israel is exiting the pandemic and will soon reopen to the world, proverbially asking potential visitors Dr. Toby Keith’s famous question: “How do you like me now?!!”. I should’ve been a cowboy…

New Israeli Prime Minister
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