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Knesset rejects bill to provide compensation to Meron disaster victims

UTJ’s Ya’akov Asher’s proposal falls in a 59-55 vote; minister says government has not yet formulated its position on the issue

Victims of the April 30, 2021, Mount Meron disaster: Top row (L-R): Chen Doron, Haim Rock, Ariel Tzadik, Yossi Kohn, Yisrael Anakvah, Yishai Mualem, Yosef Mastorov, Elkana Shiloh and Moshe Levy; 2nd row (L-R): Shlomo Zalman Leibowitz, Shmuel Zvi Klagsbald, Mordechai Fakata, Dubi Steinmetz, Abraham Daniel Ambon, Eliezer Gafner, Yosef Greenbaum, Yehuda Leib Rubin and Yaakov Elchanan Starkovsky; 3rd row (L-R): Haim Seler, Yehoshua Englard, Moshe Natan Neta Englard, Yedidia Hayut, Moshe Ben Shalom, David Krauss, Eliezer Tzvi Joseph, Yosef Yehuda Levy and Yosef Amram Tauber; 4th row (L-R): Menachem Knoblowitz, Elazar Yitzchok Koltai, Yosef David Elhadad, Shraga Gestetner, Yonatan Hebroni, Shimon Matalon, Elazar Mordechai Goldberg, Moshe Bergman and Daniel Morris; 5th row (L-R): Ariel Achdut, Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, Hanoch Slod, Yedidya Fogel, Menahem Zakbah, Simcha Diskind, Moshe Tzarfati, Nahman Kirshbaum and Eliyahu Cohen.
Victims of the April 30, 2021, Mount Meron disaster: Top row (L-R): Chen Doron, Haim Rock, Ariel Tzadik, Yossi Kohn, Yisrael Anakvah, Yishai Mualem, Yosef Mastorov, Elkana Shiloh and Moshe Levy; 2nd row (L-R): Shlomo Zalman Leibowitz, Shmuel Zvi Klagsbald, Mordechai Fakata, Dubi Steinmetz, Abraham Daniel Ambon, Eliezer Gafner, Yosef Greenbaum, Yehuda Leib Rubin and Yaakov Elchanan Starkovsky; 3rd row (L-R): Haim Seler, Yehoshua Englard, Moshe Natan Neta Englard, Yedidia Hayut, Moshe Ben Shalom, David Krauss, Eliezer Tzvi Joseph, Yosef Yehuda Levy and Yosef Amram Tauber; 4th row (L-R): Menachem Knoblowitz, Elazar Yitzchok Koltai, Yosef David Elhadad, Shraga Gestetner, Yonatan Hebroni, Shimon Matalon, Elazar Mordechai Goldberg, Moshe Bergman and Daniel Morris; 5th row (L-R): Ariel Achdut, Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, Hanoch Slod, Yedidya Fogel, Menahem Zakbah, Simcha Diskind, Moshe Tzarfati, Nahman Kirshbaum and Eliyahu Cohen.

A proposal to compensate families of victims of the April 30 disaster at Mount Meron — which left 45 people dead and over 150 injured in a deadly crush — failed to pass a preliminary Knesset vote Wednesday.

The bill, submitted by opposition MK Ya’akov Asher (United Torah Judaism), was shot down 59-55, as the government said it had not yet formulated a position on the matter, according to a minister in the Finance Ministry, Hamad Amar.

The bill proposed a financial framework to assist the victims of the Meron disaster, which included the formation of a committee that would formulate criteria for the compensation, including the number of victims in a family and its sources of income.

However, Amar — who is from the Yisrael Beytenu party — said the current wording of the law would lead to excessive costs. He said his office would examine the budgetary implications at a later date.

The committee that Asher proposed would be comprised of 11 members, including representatives of the Justice Ministry, Labor Welfare and Social Services Ministry, Finance Ministry, Health Ministry, Public Security Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office, National Insurance Institute, two public officials as well as a retired judge,

It proposed that the committee would submit its recommendations to the Finance Ministry within 45 days of the law taking effect, and the Treasury would then submit the compensation plan to the Knesset’s Finance Committee within 45 days for approval.

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher at the opening event of their election campaign, ahead of the Israeli elections, in Jerusalem, on February 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, the coalition on Wednesday voted against the current proposal.

Amar said in-depth research would need to be conducted to formulate an appropriate assistance plan for the victims, and he proposed that his office would carry this out.

Hamad Amar speaks during a committee meeting in the Knesset, on June 14, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Meron tragedy occurred on April 30, as thousands celebrating Lag B’Omer festivities at the gravesite of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai streamed through a narrow walkway. The passage was covered with metal flooring, which may have been wet, causing some people to fall underfoot during the rush for the exit. Some apparently fell on the walkway and down a flight of stairs at its end, toppling onto those below and precipitating a fatal crushing domino effect.

Israeli rescue forces and police at the scene of the fatal crush during Lag B’Omer celebrations on Mt. Meron, in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The deadly crush has been blamed on improperly installed ramparts and walkways.

On Monday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered a halt of the criminal investigation into the disaster in order for a state commission of inquiry formed to probe the disaster to take the lead. The panel, which had been opposed by some in the ultra-Orthodox community, began its work earlier this month.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman is also currently conducting an investigation, which will apparently continue.

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