‘Dozens of dead’ in Israel pilgrimage stampede: rescue services
The accident occurred as tens of thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews were participating in an annual event for a religious scholar.
Dozens of people have been killed in a stampede at a Jewish pilgrimage site in the north of Israel, rescue services said.
Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service, said that at least 38 people were killed during the event on Friday night, adding “MDA is fighting for the lives of dozens wounded, and will not give up until the last victim is evacuated.”
On social media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “heavy disaster” and added: “We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties.”
The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews were participating in an annual pilgrimage for the feast of Lag BaOmer, in Meron, around the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage.
A video posted on social media by Israel’s public broadcasting, Kan, showed a jampacked crowd of pilgrims walking in a narrow lane.
Witnesses said they realised people had been asphyxiated or trampled when an organiser appealed over a loudhailer for the throng to disperse.“We thought maybe there was a (bomb) alert over a suspicious package. No one imagined that this could happen here. Rejoicing became mourning, a great light became deep darkness,” a pilgrim who gave his name as Yitzhak told Channel 12 TV.
“Rabbi Shimon used to say that he could absolve the world … If he didn’t manage to cancel this edict on the very day of his exaltation, then we need to do real soul-searching.”
Lazar Hyman of the United Hatzalah volunteer rescue service, who was at the scene, told AFP news agency: “This is one of the worst tragedies that I have ever experienced.”
“I have not seen anything like this since I entered into the field of emergency medicine,” he added.