The yearly festival in Meron at the gravesite of the sage Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the mystical work the Zohar, has been a magnet for all types of Jews across Israel since it has grown from a chassidic gathering to a national symbol of unity.
It is still uncertain how the tragedy began, but what is clear is that a mass rush of thousands and thousands of people led to the crushing of hundreds, if not more than a thousand people and at least 45 dead, amongst them children.
MDA Director General Eli Bin said: “This is one of the greatest civilian disasters the State of Israel has ever known, and it is hard to digest the enormity of the tragedy. For over 20 years, Magen David Adom staff have been medically securing the Lag Ba’omer events in Meron, and this year it was one of the most complex security operations that MDA has ever prepared for, with over 250 ambulances and mobile ICUs from around the country, dozens of motorcycles, ATVs, buses for evacuating the injured, unique emergency vehicles, and an MDA helicopter. As we do every year, this year we placed a number of clinics around Meron, in order to appropriately secure the event.”
“Yesterday morning, we participated in a large scale exercise led by Israel Police, and we did not imagine that we would find ourselves in such a difficult and complex event. All of the forces acted quickly and with dedication at an extremely difficult and complex scene, in coordination and cooperation with all the others. Even for MDA staff, who are used to difficult scenes, an event on this scale is very hard. We pray and wish a complete recovery to those who are injured, and we share the sorrow of the families whose loved ones were lost in this great tragedy.
Meanwhile, in a show of unity from across the country, Israelis began to gather in their cities and donate blood to the victims. With all of the talk on how Israelis are often divided, this year’s Lag B’Omer festivity-turned disaster, shows how all of us manage to come together when we need each other the most.
Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai released a deep light into the world. His teachings in the Zohar helped keep the Nation of Israel inspired during the long exile. Now his light draws us together even when we feel we are far apart. The coming together over this tragedy shows how we can move forward together. Perhaps our “leaders” can learn from the Nation, what it means to unify and join together for a higher purpose. Maybe the events in Meron, if any good can come out of them, will shine a new light of hope on the country and its leaders.