Mount Meron Celebrations to Go Ahead as Safety Regulations Approved

On Tuesday, the Public Security Committee of the Knesset gave approval for safety regulations for the Lag B’Omer celebrations to take place next week at Mount Meron. Last year, 45 people had been killed at the site in Northern Israel in a crush. Typically, hundreds of thousands of people visit Mount Meron for an annual all-night pilgrimage. The mountaintop is the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai from the second century and the pilgrimage is performed to mark his death. The police, the Religious Affairs Ministry, and the Justice Ministry have drafted regulations for the day of the celebration. 

As per the regulations, only 16,000 people will be permitted to enter the tomb complex on Wednesday and Thursday. In previous years, people had been given open access to the site, but now they would be required to purchase a ticket. Three admission and transportation options will be given; people can take a private car, which would also require a ticket and a shuttle from the parking lot, they can use public transportation, which includes a ticket to enter the site, or a private bus can be taken that includes a shuttle ride to Meron from the parking lot and needs a ticket.

People will not be allowed to take their private vehicles onto the mountain. Entry tickets would also be needed by residents of the Meron community for accessing the celebration compound and they can get them via their municipal authorities. Every individual would be allowed to stay for four hours in order to allow others to enter as well. However, it remained unclear as to how they would enforce this time limit. Only one bonfire would be allowed in the celebration, which will be held on the roof of the complex. Keeping in line with tradition, the Hasidic set of Boyan’s rebbe will lead the bonfire.

No other bonfire or events would be held without approval from the leader of the Merom Galil Regional Council. Visitors will not be allowed to tarry at the Bar Yochai tomb and they will be moved along in the same way as a conveyor belt. Those who want to pray slowly will be provided an adjacent area. This need for introducing new regulations had come after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara stated that they would need legislation and regulations for launching criminal proceedings against those who violate the rules. The tragedy had occurred last year on April 30th, when thousands of people had been walking down a narrow walkway. 

A number of celebrants had fallen down the walkway to the end of the stairs and had toppled onto the people below, which resulted in a fatal domino effect. Failure to control the huge number of people and improperly installed walkways and ramparts were blamed for the crush. The organization and regulation of the Mount Meron complex has become difficult because different areas have been administered by the different ultra-Orthodox group. An investigation was launched into the incident, but it has slowed down because the head of the investigation, Miriam Naor, passed away in January. 

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