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Meron Finally An Answer
By Micah Halpern

Thursday September 23, 2021
I've Been Thinking:

Finally, details of the Meron stampede in which 45 people were killed in Israel, in April, are coming out.

Ynet published leaked protocols of a meeting of Israeli Police top brass and other senior officials indicating that they were aware, in advance, of all the problems that led to the deadly stampede. And yet, they decided not to stop the celebration at Meron.

In a meeting on April 19 officials discussed all the different and complex security issues pertaining to the event, including COVID-19 restrictions, crowd control and securing access routes to the tomb site.

Ynet has compiled some of the main points raised by police higher-ups in the damning document:

These are the pertinent components of the meeting as quoted by YNET:

Police Northern District Commander Maj.-Gen. Shimon Lavi, who oversaw the event on the ground, remains the only official to publicly take responsibility for the tragedy. However, the protocols show that Israel's top cop — Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai — was the one who pushed to authorize the mass event without any restrictions on the number of parishioners allowed on the mountain.

Shabtai and others at the meeting recognized the dangers entailed in allowing large masses of people to pass through the tomb site's narrow walkways at the same time.

"These issues require concentration of effort and attention in the preparation in light of the large number of participants in a small and limited space and the tangible danger to human life," he said.

Northern District Commander Lavi was the only official present at the meeting who pushed to put a cap on the number of participants allowed on the mountain concurrently.

"I recommended an outline… [allowing] 10,000 people to enter the mountain at any given moment. The outline is challenging, but we must make a decision," Lavi said in the meeting.

Another official who sounded the alarm about a potential disaster was then-head of police Operations Department Maj.-Gen. Amnon Alkalay who pointed to the site's rickety infrastructure and called to prepare for a potential mass-casualty event.
Alkalay also admitted that the police would have been unable to enforce coronavirus restrictions at the packed festival if any had been imposed.

"Israel Police will not be able to meet the restrictions... Choosing between safety and health — safety comes first, and preventing overcrowding would serve both purposes," he said.

Then-Israel Police legal adviser Ayelet Elyashar and Human Resources Department chief Maj.-Gen. Boaz Goldberg also joined Alkalay's warnings, stating that enforcing such measures would not be feasible.

In the end, all their fears were realized. 45 people are dead. Countless others will carry emotional scars throughout their lives.

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26 September 2021 11:20 PM in Thoughts

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