Minister arranged for family to join him in Meron despite strict closure

UTJ’s Meir Porush says his wife, adult children were at the pilgrimage site to help him as he oversaw its closure to the general public in advance of Lag B’Omer holiday

United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush arrives for coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush arrives for coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Meir Porush arranged permits for himself and his family to visit Mount Meron in the Galilee on the eve of the Lag B’Omer holiday, despite orders closing the site to the public due to security concerns, according to a Monday report.

The minister’s office told the Kan public broadcaster that Porush, who had responsibility over the security precautions that closed the site, was there in order to manage the closure, and that his family members only joined him to help.

Porush, along with his wife, his daughter, and his two sons, reportedly spent all of Shabbat at the pilgrimage site, which usually draws as many as 100,000 worshipers, all but a handful of whom were barred from entering this year.

His two sons — one of whom, Yisrael Porush, is the former mayor of Elad in central Israel — were reported to have received permits on the premise that they were the elder Porush’s drivers.

“Minister Porush stayed in Meron for a few days before the holiday for management purposes, with the help of a team from his office,” the minister’s office responded in a statement.

“His wife and his daughter helped him with his personal needs over the course of his stay,” the statement continued. “The minister’s sons served as his drivers through round-the-clock shifts, as they have done for years.”

Ultra-Orthodox men try to reach the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron after it was declared a closed military zone, during the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, May 26, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Neither Porush nor his sons were present at any private events, the statement added, saying that all of their activity there was for official purposes.

Mount Meron is home to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who is celebrated on Lag B’Omer. The tomb compound normally attracts some 100,000 people for the holiday.

Crowd sizes have been a major concern since 2021, when 45 people were killed in a crush as they traversed a slippery walkway during the annual pilgrimage.

This year, authorities limited attendance at the compound to no more than 30 people at any given time, due to concerns that worshipers could not be safely sheltered in the event of a rocket attack by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Israelis attempted to visit the compound anyway over the course of the holiday, leading to violent clashes between pilgrims and police.

Rocket attack on Meron

On Monday, Hezbollah fired a barrage of at some 35 rockets toward Meron, some of which were intercepted and some of which landed in open areas, causing no reported injuries, but sparking at least one fire.

The terror group declared that the rocket barrage toward Meron, as well as a later barrage of some 25 rockets launched toward the city of Kiryat Shmona, was in response to an Israeli strike that killed a terror operative outside a south Lebanon hospital earlier in the day.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Committee, which runs the hospital, said one person was killed and 10 were wounded in that strike, four of them seriously.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the Israel-Lebanon border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza during the war there.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 14 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 322 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 62 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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