A massive stampede at a densely packed Jewish pilgrimage site killed at least 44 people in Israel on Friday, blackening the country’s largest pandemic-era gathering.
The nighttime disaster struck after pilgrims thronged to Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews mark the Lag BaOmer holiday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was helicoptered in to the scene in Israel’s far north, said the ‘Mount Meron disaster’ was ‘one of the worst to befall’ the country since its foundation seven decades ago.
‘What happened here is heartbreaking. There were people crushed to death, including children,’ he tweeted.
Closed last year due to coronavirus restrictions, this year’s pilgrimage drew tens of thousands of people who were seen packed together joyfully singing, dancing and lighting bonfires before the deadly crush.