Mordehai Gerber
Mordehai GerberCourtesy of the Gerber family

The 27 year-old man who was trampled during the funeral Saturday night for Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner has been identified Sunday as yeshiva (Torah academy) student Mordechai Gerber. 

A resident of Elad, Gerber leaves behind his wife and three-year-old son. He will be buried Sunday afternoon beside his parents in the Petach Tikva/Segula cemetery. 

Gerber himself was orphaned at a young age, and R' Wosner assisted him and supported him. Close family members revealed to Channel 2 Sunday that Mordechai was orphaned after his parents died of cancer; the elder Gerbers left behind eight children, including Mordechai, then 7. To support himself, Gerber worked as an air-conditioning repairman. 

Gerber was one of 12 people injured early Sunday morning during the funeral, as some 100,000 people flocked to the ceremony to pay their respects in Bnei Brak. 

Magen David Adom (MDA) medics rushed to the scene of the trampling on R' Dessler St. at about 1:30 am, where they described a grisly scene. Four people were seriously injured, including a 14 year-old boy. 

Gerber died of his wounds at Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital after suffering chest and abdominal injuries.

"Terrible congestion"

Witnesses to the trampling incident stated to Israeli media on Sunday morning that the funeral was marked by chaos. 

"The pushing was terrible," Avi Schiff, an attendee, stated to Walla! News. "I saw a wave of people heading toward [the funeral], with one person barreling into another." 

Shlomi Cohen, a photographer for haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, saw the trampling unfold as he stood on a balcony of a building on R' Dessler St. and Ma'anei HaTorah. 

"I waited for almost 20 minutes [for the photo op - ed.], sitting on a balcony outside a building across from the coffin, when I heard shouting from the public outside the yeshiva," he recounted. "Within ten minutes they began shouting again, 'the coffin is proceeding'. It was a red herring designed to dilute the insane amount of people there, and was somewhat successful." 

Within minutes, however, "2,000 people were squeezed into an are of 40-50 meters (131 - 164 ft.), all trying to touch the coffin," he said. "There are no words to describe what horrors I saw there. People ran right over each other." 

Cohen blamed a distinct lack of police presence for the accident.  

"There were no police, stewards, paramedics or any other authority in the disaster area," he said. "It took three minutes until medics arrived to treat the wounded." 

Police denied any wrongdoing, however. 

"The Israel Police have determined that the funeral was held properly," a police spokesman for the haredi sector insisted to Channel 2. "Some 300 police officers were deployed within the city to help move the procession along." 

"Naturally, the police do not have to enter the yeshiva and be a part of the funeral itself since it is an internal community event," the police spokesman added. "The tens of thousands of people who participated more or less maintained order throughout the course of the funeral."