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Former judge Dvora Berliner to head Meron disaster inquiry

Berliner will replace ex-Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor, who died last week at the age of 74

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Judge Dvora Berliner, while serving as President of the Tel Aviv District Court, in 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Judge Dvora Berliner, while serving as President of the Tel Aviv District Court, in 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

Former justice Dvora Berliner will head the state commission of inquiry into last year’s Meron disaster, according to an announcement made by Israel’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut on Tuesday.

Berliner will replace former Supreme Court chief justice Miriam Naor, who died last week at the age of 74, before the committee had completed its investigation.

“Unfortunately, [Naor’s] passing did not allow her to complete her important work,” Hayut said. “But I trust that the committee headed by former justice Dvora Berliner will do whatever is necessary to get the job done. I would like to thank justice Berliner for agreeing to head the committee and to wish her and members of the committee good luck in completing their report.”

Berliner was appointed as vice president of the Tel Aviv District Court in 2003. In 2006 she became an acting judge at the Supreme Court, a position she held for six months. Between 2006-2009 she served as president of the Tel Aviv District Court.

Among her previous positions, Berliner also headed the intergovernmental committee for examining the proper treatment of sexual abuse victims during criminal proceedings.

Following her new appointment, Berliner will be responsible for investigating the worst civilian disaster in Israel’s history that saw 45 people killed during Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mount Meron on April 30 last year.

Security officials and rescuers at the scene of a fatal crush during Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mt. Meron in northern Israel, on April 30, 2021. (AP Photo)

The committee has held 32 discussions in recent months and has heard the testimonies of 119 witnesses. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai was expected to appear in front of the committee in the near future.

Discussions are only expected to resume in the next few weeks, however, after Berliner has the chance to closely study the materials gathered by the committee so far.

Last month, government ministers said they had agreed to grant NIS 500,000 ($160,000) in “initial aid” to each of the families of the 45 people killed last year in the deadly disaster in northern Israel.

The proposal to grant aid to each of the victims’ families still requires government approval.

“The pain cannot be eliminated, but we will do everything in our capabilities to provide the maximum response for the families and we will take all precautions to prevent the next disaster,” Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said in a joint statement at the time.

“The tremendous loss experienced by the 45 families in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora can not be compensated for. The least the government can do is make sure that a case like this doesn’t happen again and to economically assist the families that were harmed,” they said. Most of the victims were Israeli, but some were Jews from the United States and other countries.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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