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Deri defends himself on Meron tragedy, calls for overhaul of site

CM 03/05/2021

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Interior Minister and Shas chairman MK Arye Deri defended himself from accusations regarding his involvement in preparations for the fateful Lag Ba’omer celebrations at Mount Meron last week, in which 45 people died from a mass crush at the site.Speaking at a special session of the Knesset mourning the disaster’s victims, Deri said that he was in favor of “a comprehensive and foundational” investigation into what happened and added that the site should be overhauled and adequate infrastructure built.“The disaster [on Mount Meron] is a decree from above, but that does not absolve us from examining and investigating [what caused it]” said Deri from the podium of the Knesset plenum.“There are many foundational problems that have been going on for decades at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Meron,” he said.“The fact that we can’t do everything that needs to be done at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai because of legal problems must end,” he continued, in reference to the complex and labyrinthine aspects of land and property ownership at the site.“The time has come to deal with these problems at their root. We must take responsibility for the entire complex and the construction of adequate infrastructure, as is appropriate for a holy site such as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s grave,” said Deri, adding that he would support any such action.The interior minister also defended himself and other ultra-Orthodox MKs against allegations that they had lobbied hard to remove restrictions on the number of people who could go to the site, despite Health Ministry officials warning that a mass pilgrimage of tens of thousands of people was a risk due to the potential for a COVID-19 spike following the event.

Deri had indeed lobbied for the removal of such restrictions, but insisted in his Knesset speech that this had been only in reference to coronavirus restrictions on crowd numbers and not for the removal or easing of any safety measures at Meron.“All the activities of the religious and ultra-Orthodox public representatives and mine were so that coronavirus restrictions, and only coronavirus restrictions, would not apply outdoors, just like the masses in Israel celebrated Independence Day about a week ago in beaches and parks under the sky,” Deri said.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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