At Least 45 Killed, Over 100 Injured In Stampede At Jewish Religious Festival In Israel
Jerusalem — A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 45 people and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officials said. It was one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters.
The Consulate General of Israel in New York on Friday confirmed that four of the dead were U.S. citizens. It said in a statement that it was “working with the families of all those who died and were injured to enter Israel as easily and quickly as possible.”
The stampede began when large numbers of people thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage during the event, according to witnesses and video footage. People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs, witnesses said.
This year, media estimated the crowd at about 100,000 people.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron around midday Friday, said it was “one of the worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel” and offered condolences to the families. He said Sunday would be a day of national mourning.
Netanyahu was jeered by dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters, who blamed the government and police for the tragedy.
President Joe Biden said he spoke with Netanyahu on Friday to offer condolences.
“The loss of life among worshipers practicing their faith is heartbreaking,” Mr. Biden said. “I have instructed my team to offer our assistance to the government and people of Israel as they respond to the disaster and care for the wounded.”
MOUNT MERON, Israel — The man underneath Avraham Nivin was already limp and lifeless. The men above him were thrashing and flailing. The men to his sides were screaming for help and struggling to breathe.
And crushed in the middle of these limbs and torsos — his legs trapped, his shoes and glasses lost in the melee, his body perpendicular to the floor — was Mr. Nivin himself.
“It was an indescribable disaster,” Mr. Nivin, a 21-year-old electronics salesman, said on Friday evening. “I thought I was looking death in the face.”
He survived, but 45 others did not — turning a night that began as a pilgrimage for tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, and a joyous return to something approaching post-pandemic normality, into one of the deadliest peacetime tragedies in Israeli history.