Members of the commission of inquiry
Members of the commission of inquirySpokesperson for the judicial commission

In the aftermath of the Meron disaster, in which 45 people, almost all from the haredi community, lost their lives, MKs from the two haredi parties, UTJ and Shas, insisted that although a comprehensive investigation of the disaster is vital, they were opposed to the establishment of a state commission of inquiry.

Now that such a commission is about to be formed, however, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the president of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah of the Lithuanian community, has indicated his support of the appointment of a haredi representative to join the team investigating the disaster.

The representative in question is Mordechai Karelitz, who met last Friday with Rabbi Edelstein to apprise him of the formation of the committee and its expected purview, and received his blessing for his participation in the commission.

Channel 12 reports that Karelitz, a former mayor of Bnei Brak and the son of the late Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, met with Rabbi Edelstein for forty minutes, after which the rabbi gave Karelitz his blessing to join the committee, in an apparent about-turn from his previous position, which was to instruct the MKs of UTJ affiliated with the Lithuanian community to vote against the formation of the commission.

This will not be Karelitz’s first foray into national politics, as in the past he served on the Tal Commission, charged with formulating a new Draft Law for the integration of haredim into the IDF. He also has extensive experience in planning and construction issues, as well as knowledge of the intricacies of the festivities on Lag b’Omer in Meron.

Earlier on Sunday it was announced that Miriam Naor, a former president of the Supreme Court, will head the commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster. Naor has previously served on many panels dealing with some of the most complex issues in the history of the State. Another commission member will be General (res.) Shlomo Yannai, who previously served as head of the IDF’s Southern Command and head of the planning department of the IDF.

The commission will investigate the chain of decisions made and events leading up to and on the night of the disaster, and also review professional and legal issues related to safety procedures at religious events, especially those with large numbers of participants. It will be coordinating its discussions and conclusions with the attorney-general, as parallel criminal investigations are being conducted within Israel Police.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the progress made on establishing the commission, noting that, “We have a responsibility to learn the lessons and prevent the next disaster. The committee will not be able to restore the lives of those who were lost, but the government can do everything in order to prevent unnecessary loss of life in the future. Everything is being done in order to ensure that the tradition of the Lag b’Omer celebrations can continue,” he added.

The Finance Ministry will be allocating NIS six million to the commission.