By Cassidie Stevens
Sunday, May 2 was declared a national day of mourning in Israel by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as 45 people were killed and many others injured during a Lag BaOmer celebration.
This was the largest event in Israel since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, with tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews in attendance. The all-night event took place at the foot of Mount Meron, where it is commemorated annually.
The traditional Orthodox celebration commemorates the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a revered Second-century sage who is also closely associated with Kabbalah. The annual festival celebrates his life and is based at the location of his tomb.
The tragic crush occurred when individuals in the large crowd slipped on steps, resulting in an avalanche of victims in a narrow passageway. Witnesses of the event said it happened in a split second, with attendees “trampling each other” in a matter of minutes.
Jewish communities, including at this university, and others around the world were heartbroken at this horrific event. Jayne Tenenbaum, a junior government and politics major and Jewish student, was not only shocked but saddened at the news of the tragedy.
“It’s terrible what happened,” Tenenbaum said. “I can’t believe a freak accident like this killed so many innocent people, I hope their loved ones can heal soon.”
Another Jewish student at this university, junior government and politics major Joshua Averbach, thought about the impact this catastrophe had on the community, as well as its impact during the already troubling times of the pandemic.
“It is such a tragedy that was supposed to be a celebration,” said Averbach. “It turned into a massive tragedy.”
This incident comes close to the time of Israel’s plan to lift the restrictions on crowds of individuals who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID in stadiums and on public transportation. Within the past few months, the Israeli government lifted multiple COVID-related restrictions, such as wearing masks outdoors and letting people back into the country from certain surrounding areas.
Kendall Elliott, a junior government and politics major, reflected on the impact and importance of the global reactions to the accident, as it was reported that one-third of the response was people laughing and making vicious comments at the hands of the deaths of Jews.
This hate speech was amplified for the world to see on social media sites like Twitter.
“It is extremely sad for a number of reasons,” said Elliott. “One aspect being how these deaths are being celebrated by anti-Semites and those who oppose the Israeli nation. It is disgusting how people saw this tragedy and their immediate response was to celebrate.”
Anti-Semitism is insanely prominent especially within the confines of social media, where opinions and hate speech like this more often than not gets elevated and promoted. These insensitive responses that are being published are making this horrific event in Meron even more heartbreaking.
“It is an overall tragic incident, and I hope the families of these victims are all able to properly mourn and heal from this,” said Elliott.