Atleast 44 killed in stampede at Orthodox Jewish festival

The disaster occurred in Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag BaOmer holiday. 

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A massive stampede at a densely packed Jewish pilgrimage site killed 44 people in northern Israel on Friday, leaving emergency workers scrambling to clear the area and evacuate the critically injured.

The disaster occurred in Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews flock to mark the Lag BaOmer holiday. Closed last year due to coronavirus restrictions, this year’s pilgrimage was the largest public gathering since the pandemic began. Rescue workers had initially said that chaos erupted when a section of stadium seating collapsed but later revised that account to say the casualties had been caused by a stampede.

Authorities had authorised 10,000 people to gather at the site of the tomb but organisers said more than 650 buses had been chartered from across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.The Meron pilgrimage is primarily attended by ultra-Orthodox Jews, a community that has at times resisted mandatory health and safety measures during the pandemic.

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