‘Strive to Study the Truth’: Calls for State inquiry into Mt. Meron tragedy

May 2, 2021 by Aryeh Savir – TPS

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Israel observed on Sunday a national day of mourning for the 45 Israelis who died during the Lag Ba’Omer celebrations on Mount Meron, as the press and officials called for an in-depth inquiry and have begun to point fingers at those they believe are responsible for the tragic disaster.

Israeli flags at the Knesset fly at half-mast during the national day of mourning for the 45 Israelis killed at Mt. Meron. (TPS)

Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana commented on Saturday night on the tragic disaster and wrote on his Facebook account that “after we finish identifying and burying our dead, I will appear in front of the cameras. I will appear and take responsibility. Yes, I am accountable for everything related to the bodies under my responsibility.”

After defending the police’s high command, Ohana declared that “I am responsible – but responsibility does not mean guilt. This disaster happened this year, but could have happened any other year.”

Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai sent a letter to the police force on Sunday and wrote that the police will exhaust all lines of investigation.

“We strive to study the truth, and to draw informed and balanced lessons from all the factors involved in this complex event. This is the practice of an organization that does not compromise on the deviation from professional values and norms. We are a strong and stable organization, which has proven over the years that it knows how to overcome crises of various kinds,” Shabtai wrote.

Amir Ohana Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

The police are under fire for not preparing for the event properly.

The police’s Inter Affairs department took charge of the investigation on Sunday and will probe the police’s conduct prior and during the event.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated Friday during a visit at the site of the Mt. Meron disaster that “we will carry out a thorough, serious and in-depth investigation in order to ensure that such a disaster does not recur.”

Officials from various walks of life have called for the establishment of an official national mission of inquiry.

No politician has stepped forward and assumed responsibility for Israel’s worst civilian tragedy. Several ministries were involved in planning various aspects of one of Israel’s largest annual festivals, but there was no one supreme manager.

Various segments of Mount Meron are owned and run by private organizations which compete for control over the holy site and oppose any change to it.

However, no one was surprised by the tragedy. Anyone who has attended the event in previous years could have said that the religious event was a disaster waiting to happen.

Member of Knesset Moshe Gafni, of the United Torah Judaism party, told Channel 11 Radio on Sunday that “in previous years we had miracles, this year we did not.”

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