The Meron tragedy is a trauma for the Jewish people on a global scale and in different ways from other catastrophes that occurred in the past, said Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel, in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva.
“We are seeing an event that was supposed to be the highest of the high, connecting to G-d on Lag B’Omer, finally after COVID, finally after here in Israel we were allowed to walk around without masks.”
Under normal circumstances, the Lag B’Omer celebration at Mount Meron is a feeling of “togetherness” where “it makes no different what type of yarmulka you’re wearing, or what shtreimel you’re wearing, or even if you wear a yarmulka at all. Let’s just dance together.”
Normally, he described it as an “incredible experience.”
But the tragedy turned a “high into such a dramatic low” and traumatized not just those who were there and witnessed the horror of what took place but multiple thousands of other Jews who were connected through attending funerals of those who died either in person or online, as well as those who saw footage on the news.
Berman said it was shocking when he realized the magnitude of what happened that night, given that it wasn’t just Israelis but Jews from many different countries who were killed.
Thousands attended the funerals for the deceased. “What a beautiful but unfortunate way of bringing Am Yisrael together.”
He added that “we’re talking about tremendous circles of people who were affected” by the tragedy, especially given that many teens who were sent by their parents to study in Israel do not have their parents close by to help them process the trauma. Even with psychologists and social workers provided, mental health professionals cannot be around twenty-four hours a day the way parents can, in case a teen feels that he needs to talk about what he experienced.
“There’s not a single Jew who can say that this is not my responsibility,” Berman said. “Every Jew everywhere in the world… has to realize that the magnitude of this event is just bigger than anything we’ve ever seen.”
With an estimated 150,000 people in Meron at the time of the disaster and around another 300,000 on their way or having already left, “everyone there clearly saw what nobody ever wants to see.” And their families were traumatized too.
Berman said he spent an hour on the phone with his brother-in-law who was at the scene until ten o’clock in the morning, placing bodies in the rescue vehicles.
“I sat last night on the phone for almost an hour talking to him and just giving him a hug and telling him how much we all look up to him,” he said. “The reality is that every one of us needs somebody to talk to at this time.”
Every Jew has a job to do to ensure that everyone connected to the tragedy is able to have their voice heard, and “that they are able to get it off their hearts and off their chests.”
“Being able to share it with somebody else is crucial,” he said.