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Stampede at religious celebration in Israel leaves dozens dead

DW, 30 Apr 2021
In Israel, at least 44 people have been killed and around 150 others injured in a stampede at a religious gathering attended by tens of thousands. It happened at Mount Meron in the northern part of the country - where ultra-Orthodox Jews were holding an all-night prayer and dance celebration.

Footage from social media shows the scene shortly before tragedy struck. A densely packed crowd dancing ecstatically at the annual Lag BaOmer celebration.

Authorities believe overcrowding is likely to blame for the fatalities and injuries. Rescue workers say many of the dead were either trampled to death or suffocated.

It was the first large-scale religious gathering to be held legally since Israel lifted most coronavirus restrictions. But despite Israel's successful handling of the pandemic, health authorities had warned against holding a gathering of this size. The Lag BaOmer religious festival is particularly popular with Israel's ultra-Orthodox community. Followers gather at the grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Mount Meron in northern Israel in a celebration that marks the anniversary of the death of the Talmudic sage. In a night-long vigil thousands of Jews will light large bonfires and visit the final resting place of Bar Yochai, who is revered as one of Judaism's great sages.

Israeli police report nearly 100,000 people attended the gathering, which they say is four to five times as many as should have been in a location like this.


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