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Police, health officials warned of Meron disaster just weeks before

CM 01/05/2021

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Top police officers and health officials warned of a disaster at Mount Meron and recommended closing the holy Jewish site at a meeting that was held two weeks before the holiday of Lag Ba’omer.
On Thursday night, 45 people were killed in a deadly stampede at the site. The Justice Ministry has taken over the investigation although there were calls over the weekend to establish an independent state commission of inquiry.
The meeting and its contents were revealed Saturday night by Kan News which published a protocol of a meeting that commander of the Northern Police District Shimon Lavi held with his senior command as well as top officials from the Health, Transportation and Interior ministries.
At the meeting, Lavi said that the police are first and foremost concerned with the public’s safety. “The safety and security of the public and controlling the crowd and the pressure is our first priority,” he said at the opening of the meeting.
He then went around the table and heard from the other officers. Commander of the Ha’amakim District said: “If the grave is open and all of Israel comes there will be too many people. We should close the gravesite.  
Commander of operations in the Northern District concurred: “We need to close the grave and limit the number of people.”
The deputy head of traffic police in the North agreed: “We need to close the grave.”

In response, CEO of the Administration of Holy Sites in Israel which is responsible for management of Mount Meron, said that he prefers to keep it open and that anyhow he will need to consult with the Hassidic sects that traditionally converge on the grave of 2nd century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai located there.
Dr. Michal Cohen, the Health Ministry’s Northern District doctor, urged Lavi to close the site out of concern of a massive coronavirus infection spread. She warned of not using the “Green Pass” system under which only vaccinated or people who had recovered from COVID-19 could attend the event.
Lavi said that the Green Pass system could not be used since it would create a massive crowd of people at the entrance to the holy site that would not be controllable, basically hinting at the disaster that would occur on Thursday night.
Other police officers said that according to intelligence they had received, people planned to anyhow come and force their way into the site if it was not completely opened to the public. Limits had been placed on attendance at Mt. Meron in 2020 due to the pandemic.
In the end, in the final decision, the police agreed to remove limits on the number of participants and not to use the Green Pass system.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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