Testimony on Meron Tragedy: No One Took Responsibility

YERUSHALAYIM -
Director General of the Ministry of Health Nachman Ash arrives to give testimony before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Yerushalayim, Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the days leading up to the Lag BaOmer disaster at Meron, no one in Israeli officialdom would take responsibility for safety precautions, Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash testified to the state panel of inquiry on Wednesday, according to The Times of Israel.

Ash, who at the time was the government’s coronavirus commissioner, said that he had reached an agreement with the Israel Police and the Religious Affairs Ministry that each area for lighting bonfires would be limited to 3,000 people. Entry was to be granted only to individuals possessing a Green Pass proving they were either vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19.

However, it was later determined that checking for Green Passes at the site would be impracticable. Subsequently, Religious Affairs Ministry officials said they would coordinate with event organizers to enforce the rule at departure points for buses to Meron. People would be checked before boarding buses.

“We needed to determine who was responsible for this plan, but no one wanted to accept the responsibility,” Ash told the panel.

In the final analysis, however, Ash said that he did not anticipate that police would allow the extreme over-crowding that led to the deaths of 45 people, the deadliest civilian disaster in the history of the state.

“I certainly did not think they would allow 25,000 participants to reach the site. Absolutely not,” Ash said.

When asked whether he thought the event should have been held while the pandemic was still on, Ash replied that he would have preferred to cancel, but recognized that governing entails reaching compromises.

Mount Meron’s site manager Eli Friend told the panel last week that his control over the event was limited.

“Our control there is on a voluntary basis. Vendors do not answer my number because they know I’m not the one paying them,” he told the three-member panel.