ZAKA forces at the scene of the Meron tragedy
ZAKA forces at the scene of the Meron tragedyDavid Cohen/Flash90

Police commandant Amnon Alkelai, who was head of the police force’s operations unit when the Lag Ba'omer disaster occurred in Meron, appeared before the state commission of inquiry into the incident on Thursday morning.

According to Alkelai, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai rejected his recommendation and that of Northern District Commissioner Shimon Lavie to limit the number of people permitted to gather in Meron on Lag Ba’omer. Alkelai told the commission that Shabtai insisted that there were only two options: either allow the event to proceed unimpeded, with as many people present as wanted to attend; or cancel it entirely.

“My recommendation was to limit the number of participants,” Alkelai said. “But the Commissioner vetoed the idea. He said that it was a black-and-white question – either it was to go ahead without any restrictions, or the mountain would be closed-off to everyone. I thought that was crazy. I said that the main problem was the overcrowding and the concern for public welfare this caused – and that if they allowed it to go ahead without restrictions, they should be prepared for a mass-casualty event.”

Alkelai added that, “I wanted to resign at that point, as I felt that the entire decision-making process was ridiculous – the way in which decisions was made was crazy. I told the Commissioner that I was not able to fulfill my duties in a responsible manner, but at his request, I agreed to delay my departure by a year.

“Throughout my years of service, I saw multiple instances of flawed decision-making procedures,” Alkelai stressed. “Nothing was done in the way it should have been done.”