Israelis from every walk of life on Sunday heeded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to hold a day of mourning for the 45 people who were killed two days earlier in a stampeded at Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee.
The victims were all from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which reveres Meron as the burial place of the second-century sage Shimon Bar Yochai.
Hundreds of thousands gather annually to commemorate the anniversary of Bar Yochai’s death on Lag B’Omer.
This year, a slippery and narrow metal ramp at the site of Bar Yochai’s tomb turned into a death trap when a number of worshippers lost their footing, leading to a fatal stampede.
Among the dead and wounded were dozens of children.
It was Israel’s worst-ever peacetime tragedy, prompting Netanyahu to make the unprecedented call for an official day of mourning.
Fingers of blame are already being pointed in many directions, and primarily at the Israel Police.
However, police officials and rescue personnel who were at the scene said that while officers are responsible for overall safety, they can’t predict or prevent people falling down an overcrowded set of stairs.
The authorities have in past years faced major pushback from the Orthodox community when suggesting that the annual Mount Meron event be restricted to a smaller gathering more suited to the available facilities.