Netanyahu held personally responsible for Meron tragedy

Commission of inquiry also blamed former Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and current Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai for the crowd crush disaster.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli rescue forces and police at the scene after a mass fatality scene during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90
Israeli rescue forces and police at the scene after a mass fatality scene during the celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90

In its findings published on Wednesday, the State Commission of Inquiry into the 2021 Meron disaster found Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally responsible for the tragedy.

“The prime minister has the responsibility to proactively locate issues that require the attention of his office and, if necessary, his intervention, in particular those related to the risk to human life,” the report said.

On April 30, 2021, 45 Israelis were crushed to death and another 150 were injured, 20 critically, during a 1 a.m. stampede at Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee during the Lag B’Omer holiday. It was the worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history.

The three-member commission also blamed Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, former Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and other lower-level officials.

The commission recommended that Ohana, currently speaker of the Knesset, not be allowed to serve as minister of public security in the future and that Shabtai step down as police commissioner, though it said the government should decide on his termination date given Israel is at war.

The commission decided not to make specific recommendations regarding Netanyahu given that he holds an elected position.

The report, however, said that there was a “reasonable basis” to assume that Netanyahu knew about the poor condition of the facilities on Mount Meron, which is the tomb of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or Rashbi, and that the lack of upkeep “could create a risk for the multitudes of visitors to the site, especially on Lag B’Omer.”

“Even if, for the sake of caution, we assume that Netanyahu had no actual knowledge of the matter, under the circumstances he should have known it,” the report states.

Thousands of mostly Chassidic Jews stream annually to Mount Meron on Lag B’Omer, which is considered the anniversary, or Yom Hillula, of the great rabbi’s death.

See: A Hasidic Jew Talks About the Mount Meron Tragedy

The judges said both Ohana and Shabtai were aware of the potentially life-threatening overcrowding at the site, which had been going on for years, and should have addressed the dangers.

“The fact that the celebration ended in the past without loss of life did not make it a successful event,” the commissioners added.

The commission also criticized a “bad culture” within public institutions, where changes are made only for appearance’s sake.

Noting that the “writing was on the wall” before the disaster, it said that to prevent the next tragedy, “a reformed culture is needed. Officials and bodies are required that act first and foremost out of a sense of duty as public servants—to act responsibility and with professionalism.”

Candles mark the site of the Meron disaster, at the Rashbi’s gravesite on Mount Meron in the Galilee, March 2, 2022. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.

The commission of inquiry was established in July 2021. It was first headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor. When Naor died in February 2022, she was replaced by former Tel Aviv District Court President Dvora Berliner.

With reporting by JNS.

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4 responses to “Netanyahu held personally responsible for Meron tragedy”

  1. LarryFreeman says:

    Incredible, truly incredible. Israel eating their own. Just like the US.

  2. G. Ian Goodson says:

    This is just a pretext to have a go at Netanyahu. Prime Ministers are nto responsible for the day-to day running of local government. Now they want him to be micro-managing dictator!

  3. Esther Wischer says:

    I can only agree with the comments above. When will Israelis stop biting and devouring each other? Her enemies are rejoicing at the division.

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