Northern District Police Chief, Superintendent Shimon Lavi, announced his resignation from the police Monday night, a year and three months after the Meron disaster. In a letter to the police commissioner, Lavi wrote: “Immediately after the disaster I said that I, as the incident commander, am responsible.” He added: “I meant real responsibility, no shticks. I never hid behind those who shared responsibility.”
By “those who shared responsibility,” the retiring chief was referring to the political echelon, most notably then-Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and then-Internal Security Amir Ohana. Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai was also among those responsible who now let Lavi be the fall guy. Ohana gave new meaning to the term “responsibility,” when he announced that he was responsible, but being responsible didn’t mean being guilty.
Forty-five were killed and about 150 injured in Lag B’Omer celebrations in the bonfire section of the Toldot Aharon dynasty on Mount Meron in northern Israel on April 30, 2021. Videos on social media showed many hundreds of Chassidim crowded in a narrow corridor, and as one eyewitness described it, “In one moment everything exploded and people just fell and trampled on each other.”
נורא לראות את הצפיפות שהיתה במעבר הצר, ואת הדוחק העצום שהוביל בסוף לאסון הקשה והמחריד. pic.twitter.com/1RE7FggFXt
— ישראל כהן (@Israelcohen911) April 29, 2021
Police investigators estimated that about 100,000 people were crowded on the mountain at the time of the collapse – when the maximum allowance was for 10,000. The preliminary police investigation revealed that some of the people who were squeezed together slipped down the stairs, creating a human avalanche under which many were crushed.
The spokesman for the Meron disaster families’ forum Israel Diskind congratulated Lavi on his accepting responsibility and called on Police Commissioner Shabtai to follow his example. “Lavi’s resignation is a wake-up call for all those responsible for the Meron disaster: take responsibility.”
Diskind included in his call “the chairman of the National Center for Jobs in the Holy Places, Yossi Schwinger, together with MKs and ministers who, together with the other machers were responsible for the deaths of 45 civilians. Spare yourselves the shame of being dismissed by the commission of inquiry, and go home.”
On June 20, 2021, the Lapid-Bennett government decided to establish the Naor Committee of inquiry into the Meron disaster. On November 22, 2021, the committee issued interim recommendations that included appointing one responsible minister who will bear overall responsibility for the revelry (the government picked Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana); improving the site’s infrastructure and removing hazards; preventing excessive density by limiting the number of celebrants on the mountain to 10,000 at any given time.
As a result, the 2022 Meron revelry was the safest in history, but also the most anemic, with thousands stranded for hours waiting for their turn to ascend.