MDA forces in Meron
MDA forces in MeronYaron Blustein, TPS

In light of the recent disaster in Meron, authorities decided Monday to close the site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's (Rashbi) grave ahead of the events honoring the first day of the Jewish month of Sivan.

During the Tuesday event, the gravesite will be closed to visitors, Israel Hayom reported. The gates will close on Tuesday at 12:00p.m. and remain closed until Wednesday morning at 4:00a.m.

The decision follows a Sunday meeting at the police station in Tzfat, in which a plan to secure the event was presented and approved. During the meeting, the demands of various security and rescue organizations were presented. These demands included approval from an engineer, and approval from the Fire and Rescue Service. However, the Fire and Rescue Service announced that they would not approve the event, and a safety engineer could not be found on such short notice.

As a result, attorney Eli Friend, who runs the site, announced that he intends to close it to visitors, even though in his opinion the guidelines are stricter than necessary for the event in question.

In a letter to the Tzfat police chief, he wrote: "No one is inviting worshipers and visitors to come to Rashbi's grave; the public arrives at the site spontaneously. I am in doubt as to whether this is legally an event which needs such a security plan. Nevertheless, I have accepted your stance and acted to the best of my abilities to implement the demands of the police and security chiefs."

He added that due to time constraints, he had not been successful in locating a safety engineer who could approve the site, and that the firefighters had told him that they do not approve the event.

"In such circumstances, I cannot take responsibility for the public's safety and welfare during the event on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the eve of the first day of Sivan - ed.)," he wrote.

"I intend to close the site's main doors, as well as the gates of the Priests' Porch, and also place organizers who will prevent worshipers and visitors from entering the holy gravesite," Friend emphasized to the police. "As you know, I have no authority to evacuate the public from the gravesite, and they will not do so of their own free will. I therefore request your help in this matter."