As Israeli officials work Friday to identify the victims of an outcry at a religious holiday that has brought together tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, social media has become a huge platform for information on missing people.
Friends and family shared photos of people who were at the Lag B’Omer event in the Mount Meron region of northern Israel looking for information on their whereabouts or, in the worst case, to find out if they are among the 45 dead. and 150 injured, many of them in critical condition.
Some stories are relieved, like that of Eliyahu Kamar, told by The Times of Israel newspaper. He was unable to speak to his son, who traveled alone to participate in the festival. Upon learning of the tragedy, Kamar toured several hospitals seeking to identify his son among the dozens of injured.
In vain, the father feared his son was among the dead and went to the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel. At the scene, authorities asked families to identify the bodies of several of the dead in Meron.
According to the Ministry of Health, only 12 of the 45 dead had been identified, more than 15 hours after the tragedy. There are children, adolescents and adults of Israelis and other nationalities, as the pilgrimage tends to draw thousands of people to Israel every year.
As he was about to enter the institute, Kamar received a call from his family. The son had just entered the house, unharmed but tired, after hours of traveling from Meron to Or Yehuda, where the family lives.
“It’s good, praise be to God. He couldn’t call because he was stuck on the bus and the phone lines were cut, “Kamar said.” I just want to send my condolences to the families who weren’t as lucky as me. My heart is with them.
Hanoch Slod, 52, Moshe Ben Shalom, 20, David Kreus, 33, Yosef Amram Tauber, 18, Elazar Mordechai Goldberg, 37, Eliezer Zvi Yosef, 26, Eliyahu Cohen, 16, Moshe Mordechai Alhadad, 12-year-old Yosef David Alhad, 18, Moshe Natan Neta Englander, 14, and Yehoshua Englander, 9 are among the victims already identified by authorities, according to local media.
In an interview with a radio station, a spokesperson for Zaka, the country’s main emergency service, said the cellphones of the dead kept ringing. According to him, the caller IDs show that some contacts are recorded as “mother” and “dear wife” indicating that, like Kamar but without the same luck, desperate family members are seeking information about their loved ones. .
The country is in mourning, officially. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called what he saw on Mount Meron “a great disaster”, declared national mourning next Sunday (2).
As officials continue to seek ways to identify other victims and notify their families, the prime minister urged people not to spread rumors about the incident and pledged to open “a full investigation , serious and detailed to ensure that this type of disaster never happens again “.
The tragedy, however, has been at least partially foreshadowed. Different control bodies have warned against the insufficient space that hosts the festival to accommodate such a large crowd.
In 2008, a report by the State Controller concluded that there was< défaillance systémique >> on the site, noting that the interference of the authorities of different spheres has created a chaotic situation which could cause damage to the sacred place and put the religious who frequent there in danger.
Three years later, the agency released a new report, pointing out that the space was not prepared to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people. “The existing situation should not be allowed to continue, of the neglected structure where groups do whatever they want to abandon a place of great national and religious importance,” the comptroller said at the time.
According to local rules, the Mount Meron area should not be allowed to receive more than 15,000 people. The audience limit predates restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus which, in 2020, led to the cancellation of the annual pilgrimage. The audience estimate for Thursday was over 100,000 people, much more than in previous years.