Panel blames Israeli neglect for 2021 crowd disaster, implicates Netanyahu
Panel blames Israeli neglect for 2021 crowd disaster, implicates Netanyahu
Panel blames Israeli neglect for 2021 crowd disaster, implicates Netanyahu
by DZRH News07 March 2024
FILE PHOTO: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is silhouetted near the Israeli national flag, which was lowered to half-mast as the country observes a day of mourning after dozens were crushed to death in a stampede at a religious festival on the slopes of Israel’s Mount Meron, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -An Israeli commission of inquiry said on Wednesday that years of neglect at the top levels of government led to the death of 45 people at an overcrowded religious festival in 2021, directly implicating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the disaster.

The panel determined that Netanyahu shared in the responsibility for the deadly crush, the worst civil disaster ever in the country, but did not recommend any measures be taken against him.

"The writing was on the wall," the three-member panel, which collected some 213 testimonies, wrote in its report.

The tragedy occurred when tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews thronged to the tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the Galilee for the annual Lag B'Omer celebration that includes all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.


During the ceremony part of the crowd surged into a narrow tunnel and the 45 celebrants, including children, were asphyxiated or crushed to death.

The deaths, however, were a result of deeper, well-known problems that dated back years, according to the panel's findings. These included poor management at the site that annually drew enormous crowds, safety rules that were repeatedly ignored, and needed changes that were never made.

The committee said it "got the impression that political pressures negatively impacted the process of making decisions relating to the site's management and their quality, and prevented attempts to improve the situation."

Eighteen officials and religious leaders, including Netanyahu, cabinet ministers and the chief of police, had previously been sent warning letters informing them that they may be found to share responsibility.


On Netanyahu's role, the report said it was reasonable to determine that the veteran prime minister knew that the compound had for years been poorly cared for, and that this posed a risk.

"Even if, for the sake of caution, we assume that Netanyahu did not have real knowledge on the matter, under the circumstances he should have known," it said.

The committee determined that most of the 18 officials, including Netanyahu, had some personal responsibility in the mishandling of the site that lead to the festival disaster, and recommended disciplinary actions against some of them.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by William Maclean and Cynthia Osterman)

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