- A crush during a religious celebration at Israel’s Mount Meron killed 45 worshipers and left at least 6 of the 112 injured in critical condition.
- An estimated 50,000-100,000 people had crowded onto the mountain to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday.
- Israel’s health ministry had urged people not to attend the festival, warning of the risk of another Covid-19 outbreak.
What is the Lag B’Omer festival?
The Lag B’Omer festival is an annual Jewish religious holiday marking the anniversary of the death of an influential rabbi who died some 19 centuries ago.
It is the largest annual public event held in Israel.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a 2nd century sage and scholar who many maintain is the author of the Zohar, the seminal work which serves as the foundational text in Jewish mysticism.
Every year, Orthodox Jews travel in huge numbers to the town of Meron and celebrate by lighting bonfires and singing and dancing on Mount Meron, where the rabbi is believed to be buried, until the early hours of the morning.
Another key tradition sees parents bringing boys who have reached the age of 3 into Shimon Bar Yochai’s tomb for their very first haircut.
The festival was largely curtailed last year due to coronavirus restrictions.
Despite calls from the Israeli health ministry advising people not to come, huge crowds still flocked to Meron this year.
Usually only Orthodox Jews make the pilgrimage to Meron, although secular Jews across Israel participate by lighting bonfires.