Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) arrived at Meron this evening to attend the Rashbi hilula celebration, being held this year in diminished format due to coronavirus pandemic fears.
"There's no doubt that this is not what we are used to seeing here, not even close. Every year, half-a-million people come here and we preserve the bonfire tradition, with all the grief and pain. We have no choice but to do what we're allowed in terms of government directives - three bonfires with fifty people each," Vaknin told Arutz Sheva.
He strongly criticized the Meron policing operation: "For every person here on the mountain there's between 40 and 50 policemen. I don't think this massive police presence was needed. Unfortunately, they also imposed unnecessary bureaucracy on those people who were allowed to come up.
"One commander doesn't know what the other commander says and I have to go up to the police HQ to get them to allow people who were left down bottom and have permits to come here. It's an unthinkable situation," he said.