Photo Credit: David Cohen / Flash 90
Rabbi Moshe Ratta lighting a bonfire at the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) gravesite in Meron ahead of Lag B’Omer, March 26, 2022.

It’s two days before the great Lag B’Omer celebration on Mt. Meron, and preparations are in full swing for the event, which will be held for the first time under strict restrictions. Thousands of police officers will be on hand to ensure that only ticket holders are allowed to reach the holy compound, under a system that will replace those ticket holders every few hours. The authorities are fiercely determined to avoid last year’s catastrophe that took the lives of 45 celebrants (44 Dead, 150 Injured in Mt. Meron Catastrophe).

Except that Kan 11 News revealed Monday night a scam that will jeopardize the lives of many once again: criminal elements have been forging tickets for the celebration, pocketing thousands of shekels while creating unexpected pressure on each shift of celebrants the police will allow in.

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Here are the steps that were taken by the government to secure the Meron celebration:

  • Entry only for holders of pre-purchased tickets
  • No more than 4 hours’ stay for each ticket holder
  • A maximum of 16,000 people in the compound at any given moment
  • Only a single bonfire––instead of 20––to be carried out by the Boyanner Rebbe
  • No sale or distribution of food inside the compound

Those are extremely sensible steps, each preventing overcrowding that would have the potential for a repeat of last year’s lethal stampede.

But not if each shift that’s being monitored by the police includes many more than 16,000 visitors, as many present fake tickets, walk inside with impunity and increase the risk for everyone.

Along with the preparations of the police and rescue services for the celebration in Meron, the IDF is also preparing for the arrival of thousands of people on Mt. Meron, as part of lessons learned from last year’s disaster. Hundreds of Home Front Command soldiers will be stationed in Meron year to be on hand immediately in the event of a major incident.

Dozens of soldiers will man stretchers in the event of a multi-casualty incident, subordinate to the Northern District Police. Dozens of additional soldiers from the Rescue Brigade will be on standby in case of collapsed structures or a mass casualty incident. Helicopter landing squads have already prepared landing sites in Meron. Three Air Force helicopters will be on standby at all times during the celebration in case of evacuation of casualties to the hospitals, especially to Ziv Hospital in Tsfat.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.