Member of investigative committee: 'Maintain just one bonfire on Mount Meron'

'Every year the gathering grows, the mountain has become too small to hold that number of people,' police superintendent says in testimony to investigative committee.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

The government committee charged with investigating the Meron disaster
The government committee charged with investigating the Meron disaster
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

During a Wednesday morning meeting of the government committee for investigating the Meron disaster, Israel Police's Superintendent Michael Touboul said that in his opinion, just one bonfire lighting should be held on Mount Meron, and it, too, should be limited.

Forty-five people were killed in the deadly Lag Ba'omer stampede on Mount Meron, and dozens more were injured.

"Every year the gathering grows and increases. The mountain has become too small to hold that number of people. And we, with infinite creativity, try every year to examine options to expand the standing areas and the bleachers for sitting, in order to create more places so that the people arriving at the mountain will be able to stand safely," Touboul explained.

According to him, in recent years, the number of visitors has increased in a way which makes it difficult for the police to manage.

"Throughout the years, the mountain has changed for the better, in a way that expanded the standing areas, but what happens in actuality is that these upgrades invite more and more people, and in the end of the day the mountain becomes too small to hold [them]."

The issue of bonfire lightings, he said, is crucial to learning lessons from the disaster.

"If this continues in the coming years, it will present a danger to those arriving on the mountain," he warned. "I would keep only one of the traditional lightings, and even that should be limited with regards to how many people and how much time we allot it."

"The other bonfire lightings I would remove from there, in an organized fashion. There are very organized areas at the bottom of the town of Meron. All of the bonfires can be held there. We can also find a place that overlooks the gravesite. That would solve [the issue of] the pressure."

Earlier, Health Ministry Director General Professor Nachman Ash, who was coronavirus czar at the time of the disaster, said that there had been "a proposal to limit each event at the site to 3,000 people."

"They needed to decide who would be responsible for this plan, and here no one wanted to take the responsibility. There was an argument between the police and the Religious Affairs Ministry. It was impossible to get the name of the responsible party, and so the submission of the guidelines was delayed."



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