A dozen boys and teens under 18 among Meron dead; youngest victim was 9 – The Times of Israel

At least a dozen children and teens younger than 18 were among 45 people killed in a stampede at a Lag B’Omer festival in northern Israel, according to a partial list of names published Saturday as the identification of victims in Israel’s deadliest civilian disaster continued.

Four Americans, a Canadian and a man from Argentina were also among those killed. Two families each lost two children. The youngest victim, Yehoshua Englander, was nine years old. His brother, Moshe Natan Neta Englander, 14, was also killed.

The other underage victims are: brothers Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, 12, and Yosef David Elhadad, 18; Yedidia Hayut, 13; Eliyahu Cohen, 16; Moshe Levy, 14; Yosef Yehuda Levy, 17; Nahman Kirshbaum, 15; Yishai Mualem, 17; Yosef Mastorov, 18; Eliezer Yitzchak Koltai, 13.

Most were buried on Friday and Saturday night, in funerals that drew hundreds of mourners.

Top row (L-R): Menahem Zakbah, Simcha Diskind, Shraga Gestetner, Shimon Matalon; 2nd row (L-R): Yosef David Elhadad, Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, Moshe Natan Neta Englander, Yehoshua Englander; 3rd row (L-R): Haim Seler, Yedidia Hayut, Daniel (Donny) Morris, Nahman Kirshbaum; 4th row (L-R): Abraham Daniel Ambon; Yedidya Fogel, Yisrael Anakvah, Moshe Ben Shalom

Meanwhile, calls were growing louder Saturday for establishing an official commission of inquiry, in part to gauge the responsibility of politicians and senior decision-makers for allowing the mass gathering to take place, despite repeated warnings over the years about safety lapses. In an initial response, the country’s cabinet minister who oversees the nation’s police force defended the police’s handling of the event.

The stampede early Friday had cut short the annual festival of Lag B’Omer on Israel’s Mount Meron. The festival had drawn some 100,000 people in the largest gathering so far this year as Israel’s successful vaccination campaign allowed the country to emerge from coronavirus restrictions.

Eliyahu Cohen, 15, was killed in the Meron stampede (courtesy)

As large numbers of people began to leave one of the events at the festival, they thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage that sloped downward and ended with a series of steps. The floor had become slippery with spilled water and juice, according to witnesses. As some in the crowd slipped, those behind them fell on top of those on the ground.

Veteran paramedic Yossi Halabi told Israel TV’s Channel 12 on Saturday that he “encountered a wall of bodies” after he was first alerted to the disaster from his nearby post. He said it took him and fellow rescuers about 40 minutes to extract the dead and wounded from the chaos.

He said that it was “one of the worst if not the worst incident” he had seen in 30 years on the job.

A man weeps at the funeral of Rabbi Eliezer Goldberg, who died during Lag BaOmer celebrations at Mt. Meron in northern Israel, in Jerusalem on Friday, April 30, 2021.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared Sunday to be a national day of mourning. On Saturday night, a vigil was held in Tel Aviv, where people lit memorial candles and the municipality lit up City Hall with the Israeli flag.

Israeli media said 32 of the 45 victims were identified before the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown Friday. Of those, 22 were laid to rest before the Sabbath. The identification of the remaining victims and burials resumed after sundown, as did some of the funerals. Jewish law calls for swift burial of the dead.

Sixteen people remained hospitalized, including three in serious condition.

Lag B’Omer is very popular with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic who is believed to be buried there. The crowds light bonfires, dance and have large festive meals as part of the celebrations. Across the country, even in secular areas, smaller groups gather in parks and forests for barbecues and bonfires.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews attend a funeral in Jerusalem for one of the 45 victims of the Mount Meron tragedy, April 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Experts have long warned that the Mount Meron celebrations were ripe for disaster due to the crowded conditions, large fires and hot weather. In a 2008 report, the state comptroller, a watchdog government office, warned conditions at the site, including escape routes, “endanger the public.”

The Justice Ministry said it was launching a probe into possible criminal misconduct by police officers. Witnesses complained that police barricades had prevented people from exiting properly.

However, there were growing demands Saturday, including from retired police commanders, for an official commission of inquiry that could also review decisions by the political leadership.

In a post on Facebook, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is responsible for the police and also a close confidant of Netanyahu, praised police conduct. He said he was prepared to “take responsibility” and answer all questions. “I am responsible — but responsibility does not mean guilt,” he wrote.

Sorgente articolo:
A dozen boys and teens under 18 among Meron dead; youngest victim was 9 – The Times of Israel

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