Rivlin at Forensic Institute
Rivlin at Forensic InstituteMark Neiman/GPO

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin today, Sunday, visited the L. Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir and thanked the staff for their tireless work in identifying the victims of the Har Meron tragedy. He was escorted by head of the institute Dr. Chen Kugel, laboratory manager Dr. Nurit Bublil, head of the clinical unit Dr. Ricardo Nachman and the institute’s social worker Yael Doron.

Dr. Chen Kugel, head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine thanked the president for his visit, saying “This is the first time in the history of the institute that a president is visiting. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for that.”

In the State of Israel there is a very low number of medical examiners or pathologists per head of population who are available to deal with tragedies, and the Institute of Forensic Medicine also supports the IDF in this regard. According to statistics, the State of Israel requires seven times the number of pathologists than are currently available in order to be ready and in line with western standards for a mass casualty event such as the one that happened this weekend. The institute’s director said that yesterday they reached the limits of their capacity and that the teams dealing with this must be enlarged.

The president heard from the staff of the institute about their efforts over the last days to identify the victims and to bring them to burial without delay, and the continual support for the families of those who lost their lives from Friday until the process was complete.

Yael Doron, the institute’s social worker, said that the team had been supplemented with social workers from Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality and was ready to receive families at 6am on Friday morning. The victims began arriving at 12pm on Friday. From that moment, each family had a social worker with them to accompany them until their loved one was brought for burial.

“My dear ones, these are very difficult days. On the celebration when we mark the end of the signs of mourning during the counting of the Omer, and according to tradition, the end of the plague that claimed the lives so many of the students of Rabbi Akiva, a terrible tragedy was visited upon us. It is hard to grasp the dimensions of the tragedy, the loss of live of children, young people, bridegrooms and fathers, who lost their lives in such a cruel way,” said the president.

Speaking to the families who have lost loved ones he said, “It is hard to grasp the pain of the families who saw in Shabbat not knowing what the fate of their loved ones was and came from Shabbat to the cemeteries. I am with you in your pain; all Israelis are with you in your pain.”

The president thanked the dozens of members of staff of the Institute of Forensic Medicine who have worked round the clock since Friday in order to complete the identification of the victims and allow them to be brought to burial, saying “I know that these last days have demanded extraordinary fortitude from you. You understood the tremendous sensitivity required from this tragic event, and the difficulties in any delays in burial. Thanks to your dedication and devotion, you were able complete the task as professionally, quickly and efficiently as possible, thus allowing the families to lay their loved ones to rest respectfully and in accordance with their views.”

“I call on the heads of the institute and all the rescue and emergency agencies who were part of dealing with this awful tragedy: take time and resources to allow your people to breathe too, to process these traumatic and shocking experiences before you carry on. From here, I would like to offer a prayer for the complete and swift recovery of all those injured. May the memories of those who lost their lives in the Har Meron disaster be bound in the bond of life, and may they rest in peace,” he concluded.