Photo Credit: David Cohen / Flash 90
Hatzalah EMT volunteers at the scene of the Lag B'Omer mass fatality on Mt. Meron, April 30, 2021.

In the first cabinet meeting of the new Lapid-Bennett government, ministers voted unanimously to establish a state commission of inquiry into the tragedy that occurred on Lag B’Omer at the Tomb of the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) on Mt. Meron.

The proposal was forwarded by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman.

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Forty-five people were killed in what has been called Israel’s worst peacetime disaster.

“This commission of inquiry is our moral obligation to the Israeli public and to the families who lost loved ones,” Gantz said in a statement. “We must make sure that a tragedy of this nature never repeats itself.

“The purpose of the task force is, above anything else, to save human life,” he added.

The commission, whose work will be coordinated with Israel’s Attorney General, will probe how the tragedy unfolded, and how decisions were made to authorize the event, among other details.

Israel’s Finance Ministry will foot the bill for the investigation with an allocation of NIS 6 million for the task force, whose chairperson and members are to be appointed by the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court under the law.

“The responsibility for learning the lessons and preventing the next disaster is on our shoulders,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in his opening remarks to the cabinet.

“A commission cannot bring back those who have perished but the government can do everything to prevent unnecessary loss of life in the future. Just as we said it would, a commission of inquiry will be established,” he said.

“Alongside the commission, it is important to tell the worshippers and all of the people who go to Mt. Meron that we will do everything so that the tradition of festivities on Lag b’Omer, and throughout the year, will continue. People from all sectors go to Mt. Meron – ultra-orthodox, religious Zionism, traditional, Sephardi, Ashkenazi and secular. Our responsibility is to ensure their safety. This is the government’s job and we will do it,” Bennett said.

Thus far, no single official — religious or political — has stepped up and taken responsibility for the massive tragedy. Police conduct at the event will be investigated by the Police Department of Internal Affairs.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.