Politicians from across the spectrum offered condolences for the victims and prayers for the injured, following the deadly stampede at a mass gathering to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday at Mount Meron. They also praised rescue workers dealing with the disaster.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “a terrible disaster,” and said “everyone is praying for the recovery of the injured,” as well as offering his support to rescue workers at the scene.
The cabinet approved a declaration of Sunday, May 2 as a national day of mourning following the Meron disaster.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed the military to fly flags at half-staff and cancel events. Ceremonies are expected at army bases.
President Reuven Rivlin tweeted that he was watching developments with “great trepidation” and praying for those who were hurt.
At least 45 people were crushed to death and more than 150 people hurt, including many in critical condition, in the tragedy that began to unfold at around 1 a.m. on Friday. Tens of thousands of people had gathered at Mt Meron in the northern Galilee for an annual pilgrimage around the gravesite of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai. Army Radio reported that children were among the dead and injured.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who oversees the police and was at the site earlier in the day, said “we are all praying for the wellbeing of the wounded and we support the emergency and rescue forces.”
Ohana added that “unfortunately many of the deceased have not yet been identified and as a result, many families are still unaware.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, said he shared in the grief of the families of the deceased.
“In this difficult time, there are no words that can give comfort and no words that can describe the magnitude of the pain from the terrible disaster on Mount Meron. From the bottom of my heart, I share the heavy grief of the families who have lost their dearest of all, and pray for the recovery of the wounded,” Gantz said in a statement.
Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid also said he was watching the developments with sadness.
“All of Israel is praying now for the injured to be healed. This is a difficult and sad night,” Lapid said.
“This is one of the worst disasters in the history of Israel,” Yamina party head Naftali Bennett said, adding that “our hearts ache with the dozens of dead and their bereaved families.”
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri called upon the public to pray for the wounded.
“The heart is torn, refusing to contain the size of the fracture in light of the heavy disaster,” Deri said.
Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu party tweeted that it was “a night with extremely difficult news. I wish the wounded a speedy recovery and send my condolences to the families of those killed.”
Leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, Betzalel Smotrich praised the police, rescue, and emergency services operating at the “difficult” scene in Meron, adding that he too was praying for the recovery of the wounded.
Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli said it was a “terrible night. The heart refuses to believe. I send heartfelt condolences to the families.”
“How difficult and sad,” she added.
“My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones tonight, and wish a recovery for the wounded,” said head of the predominantly-Arab Joint List, Ayman Odeh.
“The government must investigate the failures that led to the severe disaster, from approving the gathering without the proper infrastructure to the conducting of the event in real-time,” Odeh added.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said he is following “with shock” the rescue attempts from the “terrible disaster” in Meron.
“My heart goes out to the wounded and the shocked families. Together with all of Israel, I wish for the recovery of the wounded and send condolences to the many mourners,” Horowitz said.
A police official said dozens of participants in the event had “slipped” while walking along a slippery walkway and causing a crushing domino effect.
The huge gathering, the largest in Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, had already sparked health fears.
Due to the large crowds, police said they were unable to enforce coronavirus restrictions at the site.