Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Message Of Meron: The Need to Think Big

I write this post with great trepidation. It is a time of great national pain. And it is very difficult to know exactly what to think and say about such things. On the other hand, it's important, precisely while the tragedy still provides an impetus to change, to try to learn the necessary lessons, as well as to get the right message out before the wrong messages set the narrative. I hope that this post succeeds. 


There are different types of reactions to tragedies like the Meron disaster.

Some blame the victims. As I wrote on Friday, I believe that this is totally inappropriate. Aside from sheer insensitivity of it, it's just incorrect. Even if you don't subscribe to the particular purported metaphysical significance of the Meron celebration, it's something of great personal religious meaning and benefit to people, and there is no inherent reason why they should not engage in such activities.

Some will look for the very specific cause. They will search for the particular engineer or official in charge of signing off on the specific ramp that was involved in the tragedy. Of course, this needs to be done, but this is far from the total response that is required. This was a tragedy that could easily have happened in many areas of Meron in any year. It turns out that for years, everyone from charedi journalists to the State Comptroller have observed that Meron was a disaster waiting to happen.

Some will name a specific non-obviously causative sin or sins as being the cause - lashon hara, bittul Torah, etc. This is simply foolish. Unless one has a direct line to God for this information, there is simply no way to make such a connection.

Others will attribute it to being an inscrutable Act of God. They may also talk about a general need to do a cheshbon hanefesh and teshuvah. This is also a mistake. It's an avoidance of doing a proper cheshbon hanefesh - which requires seriously looking at why it happened, analyzing whether and what human responsibility was involved, and what can be done to stop it happening again.

What we need to do is to try our best to discern all the factors involved in the tragedy, and see what we can learn about our shortcomings, not only in order to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, but also to prevent other negative consequences of such shortcomings

In the case of the Meron disaster - especially coming on the heels of Covid and how it affected different parts of the Jewish community - an analysis of the facts, along with details continually emerging, shows that the message seems pretty clear, even if it's going to be hard for some people to accept. But I can relate to it on a personal level.

When we moved the Biblical Museum of Natural History from the warehouse we were renting in Beit Shemesh to an enormous new building in Har Tuv, originally I was simply excited about the increased opportunities this would bring. A fifteen thousand square foot facility would enable us to give our animals much larger enclosures and to exhibit so many new things. Having several halls would make it possible to run multiple groups simultaneously, and cope better with the Chol HaMoed and summer demand. The larger halls would enable us to increase the size of the barmitzvas and other events that we host from sixty people to 250 people. And there would also be economies of scale that would result in various financial savings.

All this was true, but there was also an entirely different aspect that, in my naivete, I didn't take into account. Scaling up a museum to almost five times its former size also brought a host of new complications and challenges. Designing a building to hold several hundred people is not the same as having a building that can hold sixty people - not even the same as having five such buildings. There are all kinds of safety and accessibility regulations that are involved. We had to contract endless types of advisors and consultants to ensure that we were complying with code, and deal with all kinds of different ministries. We had to install the fire alarms and the sprinkler systems and the fresh air circulation systems and the handicapped-accessible entrances. We had to design the layout of the halls such that in the event of an emergency, the exits would be obvious and easily accessible. We had to re-do the railings on the staircases by the emergency exits because the railings on them were 10cm apart instead of 9cm apart. All the internal doors between the halls had to open in only one direction. Some of the doors had to have windows installed in them, so as not to knock over a person standing on the other side. It was all a monumental headache and expense. 

I can't claim any personal credit in complying. We couldn't be heimish - we were forced to be professional. In order to get an operating license, we fortunately had no choice but to adhere to all these regulations. And also fortunately, there had been all kinds of experts that had drafted such regulations, along with a government to enforce them. Consequently, people can enter museums such as ours and not have to worry about whether they are doing something risky.

In many of the posts that I've written over the last year or so, I've mentioned the need to view the role of Torah not just in terms of personal religious fulfillment, but also in terms of addressing issues of national significance. The type of things that one thinks about as a religious Jew in a shtetl or a small community are not the type of things that one has to think about as part of an entire country. The Torah has mitzvot that apply to an individual and mitzvot that apply to a nation, such as that to leave a green belt around the Levite cities, and to have an army. When you are dealing with large numbers of people, there are new types of issues to consider. These may relate to governance, the military, the economy, the environment, pandemic preparedness and responses, or other issues - even organizing a religious celebration. Furthermore, these issues require very particular types of highly specialized expert input. When you are running large-scale events, you need all kinds of ministries and professionals.

With a tragedy such as Meron, of course the national authorities - the police and so on - bear a certain degree of responsibility. But they do not bear sole responsibility. The police and the Health Ministry and other professional bodies were strongly against the Meron celebrations for years, pointing out that such a tiny site is not suited to such a mass gathering. But these bodies were subject to enormous political pressures from religious (and not only charedi) politicians and leaders, along with other politicians who want the religious vote. And, as the Comptroller's office stated, "Different parts of the site fall under the jurisdiction of four competing private religious institutions, all of which resist state intervention." Evidently, all these leaders and institutions didn't have an adequate appreciation for nationalized professional governance based on expert opinion.

This is a communal flaw with a historical cause. For a community that has been molded by hundreds of years of living as a persecuted minority, never having to think beyond the spiritual and physical needs of one's own tiny community, it's very difficult to change one's mindset. In yeshivah I was taught - and this is an exact quote - that "the Zionists want to create a new type of Jew, but we believe that that the old type of Jew was good enough!". That is a badly mistaken perspective. A changing world - even just in terms of a vastly growing religious community - requires us to change too.

In last week's post, I reviewed an article in a journal of practical halachah which discussed stealing from the State. I critiqued the lack of a basic sense of ethics, but there was also another problem that I overlooked. When you're dealing with an exponentially growing sector of the population, if you legitimize not paying taxes, who is going to pay for everything? In the shtetl, there was good reason for Jews to view the government as the enemy. But in the State of Israel, it's necessary to realize that we are the government.

As the religious community grows, you have to start to take into consideration matters of larger-scale significance. You have to think about issues that may have previously seemed "goyish." Most individuals are not involved in making decisions of large-scale significance, but all of us have a role in supporting religious and political leaders that take responsibility for such things.

Again, it's important to stress that we need to learn these lessons not only to prevent another Meron crush, but also to prevent other problems caused by not thinking about large-scale responsibilities, and about the need to respect the guidance of specialized professionals who think about such things. One very obvious example, repeatedly stressed by Jonathan Rosenblum, comes to mind: it's all very well to guide your community to avoid secular education and stay in kollel when there's only ten thousand people in your community, but not when there's five hundred thousand people (and growing). There are national economic and security consequences that you need to take into account.

Scaling up doesn't just bring new opportunities, it also increases one's responsibilities. And it doesn't just increase one's existing responsibilities; it also creates new types of responsibilities. As a growing community and a growing nation, we have a responsibility to start thinking big.

There is also another aspect of the Meron disaster, in terms of what prevents people from learning the necessary messages, which I will be discussing at the book launch of Rationalism vs. Mysticism tomorrow (Sunday) evening.


  1. My first thought, upon hearing of the tragedy, got me flamed by many people, but I will share it here in the hopes that someone will get the message across to the necessary people:

    Had the police limited the numbers of people there ( which the health ministry requested because of corona), there would have been cries of "antisemitism" and "anti-religious policy" (as there were last year).
    We have been praying all through this Corona year that the religious communities start to accept the rule of law, that we start to realize that Israeli "secular" law is NOT anti religious, it is simply the common sense that Pirkei Avot reminds us to heed. Unfortunately, with the pressure that was put on the govt to not restrict access to Meiron, it is clear that we haven't learn the lesson yet
    We will continue to pray that the religious communities start to appreciate the country's laws as being for our own good.
    חנה: רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר, הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות, שאלמלא מוראה, איש את רעהו חיים בלעו.

    1. Until the govt steps in, and is able to govern based on principles of social equity and transparency, and not sectarian power politics, this will get worse and worse. At this stage, I see no solutions, other than the ongoing degradation of IL society into some kind of Putin/Erdogan patronage State.

    2. I'm not sure how to break this to you, Chana, but the people in Meron didn't die from Covid. It should have either been limited every year or no years - there was definitely no reason to limit the gathering this year any more than most.
      Whether the government is anti religious or not is debatable. What is not debatable is whether they are effective or efficient in dealing with the citizenry that they are charged with "serving" - they are certainly not. The police in Israel are hopelessly incompetent and they try to compensate for it by being as hostile and inhumane as possible to innocent people of all stripes. That does not seem to be limited to their dealings with chareidim - they treat the full spectrum of the citizenry with equal venom. In this particular instance it directly lead to one of the most horrific tragedy in the history of the country and your take on it is that the religious communities start accepting the rule of law??? Like listening to police officers when they arbitrarily decide that nobody should cross a certain line? I'd love to better understand how you developed your methodology of deductive reasoning.

    3. "there was definitely no reason to limit the gathering this year any more than most."

      Nonsense. Covid is still here. Just because it's on the way out, doesn't mean we should give it a booster shot.

      "The police in Israel are hopelessly incompetent..."

      "In this particular instance it directly lead..."
      Speculation & fantasy.

      "The police in Israel are.. as hostile and inhumane as possible"
      Delusion. The 100,000 attendees who went to Meron despite there being hundreds of these "hostile and inhumane" cops there obviously disagree with you.

      "and your take on it is that the religious communities start accepting the rule of law??? "
      And your take on it is that the rule of law should be completely ignored because the gov't is not the paradigm of utopian competence? Yes, I know- Israel is a dystopian nightmare where the only island of sanity is Ponevezh.
      הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות, שאלמלא מוראה, איש את רעהו חיים בלעו

    4. Zichron DevorimMay 2, 2021 at 2:13 PM

      Both Donny Greenahus and Ephraim are right.
      The Israeli police reflect the general wildly optimistic Israeli nature, that ends up with ignoring dangers all over the place. But they are the only police that exist there, there is no other system, so fighting them will not lead to a better outcome.

    5. Based on the facts that have emerged so far, it seems like my "speculation and fantasy" were right on the mark. In any event, it takes a unique blend of stupidity and rishus to assume that would be anyone's speculation or fantasy. My ACTUAL fantasy is that the 45 people who died should all be alive and well and home with their families where they belong. And that the five police officers who blocked the passageway had chosen another profession where they weren't responsible for the safety of others. I'm not sure what led you to the conclusion that my take on the tragedy was to ignore the rule of law. Obviously one SHOULD follow the rule of law though that is hardly a lesson to be learned from this tragedy. Making a self evident observation that the police in this country needs reform is hardly an exaggeration (try telling that to the victims families) and certainly your hangups regarding the ponovezh yeshiva are irrelevant. All the best to you and may Hkb"h give a nechama to all the victims of this nightmare.

    6. (To be pedantic, as far as the specific claim of "People at Meron did not die of Covid," we can only make that judgment in 2 weeks...)

  2. I fear that this cycle will continue. The various religious groups will be pressuring and pushing for heads to roll, without actually taking the responsibility for their own indirect complicity. Were the authorities to limit next years' celebrations to say 20,000, just imagine the unbearable pressure brought to bear on the politicians! Imagine if the entire site was to be rebuilt, with safety of future events in mind, can you imagine all the religious sects sitting around one table and coming to one decision, while still adhering to all the regulations!?

    Had this been a terror attack or a rocket scoring a direct hit on an apartment building, killing 45 people, r"l, Israel would rightly respond with war. Well, war is what needs to be declared on negative charedi influence on politics and its attitude of 'it will be ok'.

  3. What you write is eminently reasonable, rational, insightful, and objectively true. And that's exactly the problem. The dichotomy in Jewish thought (or even in all human thought) is not necessarily between "rationalism" and "mysticism," but between rationalism and anti-rationalism. For even within mysticism, is there not room for an accompanying rationalism?

    If one believes that such a large gathering of Torah observant Jews at a joyous festival is not subject to the normal laws of reality, but is instead under the active protection of the Almighty regardless of physical reality, why would such arguments penetrate?

    How many such people open their cell phones, push a few buttons and think that it's some sort of magic that makes it work? Not that it functions as the result of a hundred years of mastery of the laws of physics and material science?

    The question is, how can an irrational mind be made to think rationally, especially in an area where their irrationality is the very basis of their outlook on life?

    The only possible partial answer is not necessarily to appeal to rational arguments, but to put enormous pressure, through legal and moral responsibility on the leadership with tangible, real, consequences.

  4. Yep, the situation is hopeless at thus point and based on our culture and history us unlikely to change.

  5. Thank you for some great insight, disarmingly delivered.

    Many have been making similar points.

    One counter argument that keeps coming up, is the deep level of distrust of motive articulated above. The same old chilony vs charedy. There is a lot of truth there, but hardly the point here.

    The point surely is that there are common sense regulation that EVERYONE agrees to. Example. A wild protest is planned for some chilony vs charedy hot-button issue. No permits would be requested not granted. There is still a common interest for organisers and police, who are fighting now, to agree on common sense crowd control measures on both sides! Example, police don't cause a stampede with irresponsible horseback charges, and rioters don't set off burning tires, or don't hurl them into the path of unsuspecting cars or crowds.

    It's takes a greater sense of commonality to achieve. Some view it as somehow eroding at the walls of separation or autonomy. It is no different to a common power grid, sewage system or highways.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Might I suggest we wait until after all the dead are buried to continue this discussion. It's certainly one worth having, but IMHO now is the time for bechi and personal introspection.

    1. On the contrary. The truly responsible, i.e., the Haredi leadership (except for Rav Edelstein), need to have their noses rubbed in it. ASAP.

  8. Zichron DevorimMay 2, 2021 at 6:35 AM

    I have a question, I am not sure this is the correct forum for it. But I will ask it.
    I am a Charedi, I learned in Brisk, and I bring up my children to be long-term learners. I am not looking to undermine myself, but regarding Meron, I cannot understand something.

    There were many Gedolim in Israel after the war. Here is a partial list of Charedi Gedolim: Chazon Ish, Belzer Rav, Beis Yisroel, Imrei Chaim, Tchebiner Rav, Brisker Rav, Rav Hirsh Pesach, Reb Chaim Shmulevitz, Steipler Gaon, Rav Shach, Chacham Ovadya Yosef, Chacham Ezra Attiya, Rav Yitzchak Kadoori.
    Not one of these people went to Meron on Lag Ba'omer. Not one of them told their chassidim to go to Meron on Lag Ba'omer. They just weren't there.
    How is this a CHaredi issue? Why would Charedi MKs use their political clout to support this, when most of their constituents should not have any connection to this? Ger, Viznitz, Belz and Litvaks are the biggest factions by far in this constituency. None of these people belong in Meron, why is it a Charedi issue in the first place?

    This party should never have gotten so big, because it has nothing to do with most Charedim. How did the masses create a custom, and sanctify it?

    I believe the Zohar is a holy book, and hope one day to understand it. I am not anti mysticism, nor am I anti Charedi. I just want to understand myself.

    1. I also went to charedi yeshivos and educated my children in the charedi institutions. I went Miron once at the age of 20 and never again. It was a total waste of time in my eyes ever since. It's a savage affair and there is nothing to do there for a Ben Torah. Nevertheless when you look at the videos of the 'celebrations', it's overwhelmingly a charedi affair.

    2. Most of the rabbonim you mention are not born in Israel nor are known as kaballists. It is true it is not a chasidish thing to go and make more fuss over lighting the bonfire than chanuka candles. Toldos Ahron are not real chasidim and his grandfather the first rebbe had no known yichus. They are more into what is termed avoda than torah.

    3. Im so glad of your contribution to bring some sort of balance to the discussion. Meron has become an unmanageable circus of mass proportions, a huge chilul Hashem and now, sadly a molech effigy. And it was preventable, especially post corona this year. Yakov, it is up to you to address your peers and let them be a light for others to look up. National Jewish governance is what we have here in Israel. For those that dont follow the government laws, they can leave. They need their own country with their own rules.

    4. Zichron DevorimMay 2, 2021 at 2:11 PM

      Ms. Hammer, I specifically did not want to get into your entire point.
      I am a Charedi, I sympathize with the opinions of my brothers in Israel. I agree with them that the Yeshiva bochurim should not be drafted, and even those not learning should find a way out. I am not a DL, neither am I a self-hating Charedi or a Charda"sh.

      I still don't understand this phenomena, and it does not seem to fit with the general Charedi position of following the Gedolim etc..

      Regrading Israeli law and Charedim, much of the anti-government issues of Charedim is media posturing and big talk. When the Satmar Rav Reb Yoelish would travel to Israel to 'fight' Zionism, his people coordinated every part of his trip with his 'enemies', and he used the Zionist police to guard and protect him. The Toldos Aaron Rebbe, supposedly an anti-Zionist who takes 'nothing' from the Medina, could not celebrate his Lag Ba'omer without significant cooperation with the government. They could do the same thing regarding safety and security in Meron, but according to my question, that shouldn't be necessary. The whole event shouldn't be more than 5000 people, spread out over an entire day. That wouldn't lead to events like that of last week.

    5. 'Yakov, it is up to you to address your peers and let them be a light for others to look up. National Jewish governance is what we have here in Israel. For those that dont follow the government laws, they can leave. They need their own country with their own rules.'

      Everyone follows some rules, but no one follows all 'the rules'. The country is in chaos (balagan) and people everywhere will do what they have to do to survive. The government is a reflection of the people and we have the government that we deserve. And by 'we' I mean everyone - no exceptions, we, the Jewish people. And to want only their type of Jews in the country in order to control the situation is common to most factions. We are a mess and it's unlikely to get better because our problems stem from our national character and the national character is genetic. We cannot be what we are not. No, we will not have a transparent, fair and equitable society because it's not who we are as a group. We have as much hope as Greece. As Ben Gurion used to say: עם אנשים כאלה לך תבנה מדינה!

    6. After the dual lockdown of covid and Omer restrictions, this was a big way of letting off steam. it is like having a feat after a fast.

      100,000 people went for a form of spiritual hedonsim.

    7. Spiritual hedonism! Every Purim is 'spiritual hedonism'!

      There is more than one valid way to be a Jew. Nobody is asking you to join the throng.

    8. Hat: there is pressure and fear of missing out making people join the "throng."

      ZD: It's all very well and good to say that the Chazon Ish et al did not go to Meron. But that does not change the fact that the people "in charge" and who are running the event are clearly those who self-identify with Chareidim or certain sects of Chassidim. What would happen if a few of the chareidi gedolim would have announced that Meron needs an overhaul before the event? I imagine that a few people would actually say they cannot go, but most would find another rebbe who was OK with it.

      And as far as those stories you tell of government and police workers working with anti-Zionist leaders, it has been the Israeli government's behavior since Ben-Gurion to bend over backward for those that hate them (Chareidim and Arab MKs). Also, would it not have been much healthier for the assistance that R'Teitelbaum received to have been publicized? Would it not have been healthier for Jewish achdus for the Satmar Rav to say publically "Sure, we are not active Zionists. But those who I worked with in the government are polite and helpful and only want what is best for Am Yisrael!"?? What good is you telling us now that he partook of the largesse of the Israeli government but then turned around and continued to tell his followers to stand apart and fight them?

  9. it is punishment for avodah zorah. ACJA

    1. Thank you for noticing the rampant polytheism among Haredim. What's the difference between going to Meron to worship R. Shimon Bar Yohai and going to Fatima to worship the Virgin Mary?

    2. Zichron DevorimMay 2, 2021 at 3:22 PM

      Nothing, no difference at all.
      Thank God (the one and only) that nobody goes to Meron to worship Reb Shimon bar Yochai.

    3. When I hear them sing לכבוד התנא האלקי I'm not so sure. Especially with a chasidic accent.

    4. ACJA They didn't worship R. Shimon Bar Yohai nor the Virgin Mary. Avodah zorah for what?

  10. Every single person who has been to Meron in the last 25 years on Lag b'omer recounts the same thing - the awesome power of the crush.

    The question is not how did this happen. The question is why did it not happen years ago. That I don't have good answers to, behind statistical luck.

    This is an awkward question both for the celebrants and the police. Literally everyone knew this could happen. Why were access roads not upgraded to deal with an event of this magnitude? Why was the known danger spot not rerouted or supplemented with additional exits? Did the police make bad Hillsborough style tactical decisions?

    One thing is for sure. Those people who died did not die of Coronavirus. The health ministry's claims are repurposing a lack of foresight into the actual risks into hindsight.

  11. ***********************************May 2, 2021 at 12:02 PM

    "In the shtetl, there was good reason for Jews to view the government as the enemy. But in the State of Israel, it's necessary to realize that we are the government."

    Are you blissfully unaware how anti-religious the State and its statesmen, politicians etc were? Both pre and post 1948. It takes a very special person to declare 'one cow in Palestine is worth all the Jews in Poland"

    1. "Are you blissfully unaware how anti-religious the State and its statesmen, politicians etc were?"

      Do you know why? Because Torah Jews neglected developing the country and (by default) gave the task to the secular. Even when there were indications that the country had potential as a place for refuge (1880s) the leadership were against refugees coming because the Chaluka system was insufficient to support them. Attempts to make the country more economically viable (and hence more hospitable to refugees) were also opposed.

      It takes a very special person to declare 'one (cow=) shtickele shirayim is worth all the ventilators in Sha'arei Tzedek'

    2. Ephraim,

      Really? I let builders build my house. It doesn't turn them anti religious, does it? In my country, few religious Jews play any part in the state. Not in the police, not in Government, not in hospitals, not in the army. Nowhere. It doesn’t seem to make our politicians anti religious.

    3. 'Even when there were indications that the country had potential as a place for refuge (1880s) the leadership were against refugees coming because the Chaluka system was insufficient to support them. '

      Just like the Zionists didn't want the refugees because it would endanger their project. 'One cow in Palestine is worth all the Jews in Poland' was said in 1943 at the meeting of the Palestinian Rescue Committee.

    4. That's actually not really what that cow quote means, but ok.
      It also ignores the fact that there were multiple factions and most of the zionists desperately pushed for immigration to be broken wide open. (Those attempting to accommodate british restrictions and not "cause a stir" found all sorts of ways to explain why not)

    5. What does the quote mean?

    6. "What does the quote mean?"

      You should study the quote. Who said it? When (consider its different meaning had it been said in 1930. or 1940. or 1950.)? How did his Zionist colleagues respond?
      Basically, he was in despair & felt (rightly or wrongly) that rescue was impossible & a waste of resources. (To offer a lousy analogy: he chose Yavne over J'lem) The rest of the Zionist elite voted against him and ended up backing rescue efforts.

    7. "Really? I let builders build my house. It doesn't turn them anti religious, does it?"

      If you let pygmies build your house, don't complain when you bump your head.

    8. ***********************************May 3, 2021 at 3:54 PM


      I would complain if they tried to chop of my legs.

      Carry on with your revionist history, overlooking how the early Zionists did everything they could to uproot Judaism from the country, the children, everything......were it not for the efforts of those you dispise, who sacrificed health and limbs to defend thigs like kedushas shabbos, they may well have succeeded. But carry on with your silly Zionistic arguments that it was no worse than in the times of the kings of the Northern Kingdom etc etc (overlooking how the novi prophecied against those kings and their actions).

    9. Starro (or should we call you Astero Boy?): It is not revisionist history to say that Torah communities were not interested in creating the nation-state of Israel.

      In some measure, it also doesn't matter what happened back then.

      Yes, many of the founders were avidly antireligious.

      And while in many cases, knowing the history actually informs us how to behave now (like saying that "Palestinian People" is nonsense phrase since there never was a group that identified as such nor was there ever an Arab country with that name), in this case it's less useful. The Israel government has evolved. There are religious people in the government, Dati Le'Umi and Chareidi. Some of them even want to better the country and better the lives of their fellow Jews! And the Chareidi community is able to bring tremendous political pressure to do many things. So for the modern Chareidi community to out-and-out disregard or fight against anything the government says because "the government is antireligious" is selfish and short-sighted and yes, hypocritical.

      [And this holds true even with the actual avidly antireligious people who indeed ARE still in the government. Some of them have been radicalized that way BECAUSE OF poor behavior of religious communities (obviously not all of them - some really are antireligious to their core). Wheels within wheels...]

    10. "Carry on with your revionist history"
      I made two historical claims. One- that not enough Torah Jews built the country and consequently left the State's development to the secular. Nothing revisionist about that, and your house analogy response indicates you agree. My response concerning the cow quote is not revisionist, it simply fills out the context which you weren't aware of. Revisionism? You're not only a history revisionist- you're a present revisionist!

      "the early Zionists did everything they could to uproot Judaism"
      Exaggeration. There were Torah True Zionists, anti-Torah Zionists and Zionists who were neutral. By 1948, Torah Jews, having squandered 50+ years in indifference, only achieved status quo agreements regarding Shabbat, Kashrut and marriage. Imagine what could have been achieved had they been engaged in ישוב ארץ ישראל.

  12. Rav all your opinions. What was once a beautiful time to pray and give thanks to Hashem in a secluded space has become a circus. Yom Hillula has become like Yom HaShoa. If only the ‘organizers’ asked the governing bodies to come and check the space and declare it unsafe. But they dont care, and now this sanctified kever has become a molech effigy of global concern. The chilul Hashem is overwhelming, that Jews were responsible for their brother’s deaths in a preventable situation is something we have to live with forever. The perpetrators need their own country because its clear that they dont appreciate our beautiful, holy land. May the dear kedoshim be remembered always.

  13. R' Slifkin - do you have evidence of even one time religious leaders rejected a gov't offer to renovate the area, widen pathways, build new bridges, build a stadium with dozens of exits around the kever? The only role of the religious leaders was to oppose, yearly, limitations on the site after the entire previous year passed without renovations, which only the gov't can authorize. You also omitted any mention of the five police officers who blocked the exit from the "bottle neck" for long minutes while the crowd built and built behind those at the front waiting for the police to open the blockade, resulting in people falling on one another (NOT a stampede in which people knowingly step on people on the ground to save themselves).

    1. Exactly! Thank you Anonymous for standing up for the truth and facts here!

    2. Yes. I know for a fact they wanted to renovate in 2010 and the Tschalmers in charge of the tziyon turned it down.
      Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz went personally to a well-known rov (who has since died) to beg him to approve saying people will die if not, and the rov told him "You lack emuna in Rav Shimon!"
      This is well known and can be confirmed by Rav Rabinowitz.

      The people responsible for this massacre are
      1) The cops, for closing the passageway
      2) Hachnasos Orchim Derashbi for refusing to renovate, saying it goes against the mesora.

    3. "You lack emuna in Rav Shimon!"

      Yup. Deputy J'lem Mayor claimed, "This is the 2nd year that Rashbi doesn't want us". A well known מגיד שיעור went further and claim that last year Rashbi told people not to come & this year kicked us out.
      The implications of such beliefs are disturbing indeed...

  14. You can't shut down Meron from happening. Even after this, the political will isn't there, and denying hundreds of thousands of people an annual experience they see (rightly or wrongly) as integral to their frumkeit is just not doable. So they need to work on ways to make it safe. Which includes

    1) have a single authority in charge, whose decisions MUST be made in coordination with state authorities.

    2) invest in massive infrastructure there to make it a safe space

    3) require tickets for a predetermined # of people that is deemed safe

    4) have an overflow site with video screens on a nearby mountaintop with a large open space.

    1. Amen to the tickets idea. Also by large levayas and large Chasidish weddings...

  15. Natan, the discussion in your post of the uncompromising safety requirements of your new museum reminded me immediately of your dear father Prof. Michael Slifkin who was at times regarded with disdain by others working at Machon Lev because of his unwillingness to cut corners when it came to his responsibilities, among all his other professional responsibilities, as campus safety supervisor. His primary concern in that regard was to be uncompromising and do what was right and required, because safety wasn't something to be toyed with - at all. At times it made life difficult for others on campus, but ultimately it made everyone much safer. Yehe zichro baruch.

  16. Eight years ago when I was still a young bachur I had a friend who was very much into mysticism and wanted me to come with him to Meiron on Lag Baomer, even though he knew it's not my cup of tea. After many discussions he finally went alone.
    When he came back he told me he would never go again and that everyone who made it out of there in safety could say Hagomel. He said there are places where you don't need to put your feet on the ground in order to walk.
    That was eight years ago...

    1. Exactly this. Everyone who has been there has had this experience. So predictable it is madness to have ignored it, and yet we are mad.

      "To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. " (George Orwell)

      While on the subject of seeing what is in front of your nose, the Kotel plaza will be packed to unsafe levels this Shavuos. There's not enough space there for everyone who wants to come to do so. For example, what would happen if there was a code red at 3:30am? How long does it take to extricate someone with chest pains?

      Uman on rosh hashana is another well known disaster waiting to happen.

      I'm not judging people who attend. There's many different ways to be a Jew and it's sad that so many commentators feel threatened by festivities that are not their cup of tea.

      I'm simply stating things as everyone knows them to be.

    2. @The Hat
      I don't know why you think I feel threatened. I just never felt like going to this place, which to me is meaningless, but I understand what drives people there. There they find a profound religious experience, shared with hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic people, and without most of the boundaries that usually segregate between the different brands of religious jews.

      And yes, I agree we should also restrict access to the kotel on certain days. We want to go there to pray, not to kill people.

      I'm not an expert on Uman either but it seems the site there is a lot safer. Furthermore we don't have any responsibility on what happens there.

    3. Lazer Scheiner hires planners to plan the crowds and tickets precisely to avoid such a tragedy. He works it out with the Ukrainian police. Uman is dealt with far more responsibly.

    4. One man's 'profound religious experience' is another man's 'danxe party'.

      It has ballooned out of all proportion. One wonders what Rashbi would make of the hilula in its current incarnation.

  17. Millions go to Mecca for the Haj each year, there is no choice but to make Miron and Uman similarly accessible. Nothing can stop the crowds who want to be by Rabbi Shimon.


    2. You surely must be a troll if you advocate making Miron the same as Mecca considering how many have died in crushes in Mecca.

  18. The structural issues have been addressed, I believe. At any rate, all mass gatherings of this nature have a potential for problems. People get crushed at sports events, you know. No one has the ability to limit the pilgrims from going Meron, the only choice is a safe structure with large open areas where the worshippers can ignite the fires and dance around them. Also, I remember from over 40 years ago that many animals were slaughtered and roasted and it was a mess. This should also be looked into, not to stop the practice, but to make it more comfortable.

  19. In 70 AD Jerusalem fell, not because the Romans beat us, but because we beat ourselves. Infighting among our people destroyed us. Again we sit in a place where each group "knows" they are right, and everyone else is wrong. Never forget the lessons of history, for the "Romans" wait outside our gates for us to make that mistake again. We are Jews, we are brothers and sisters, and we need to remmeber what destroyed us before, and put down our petty egos and work as one for the uplifting of Israel and our Creator.

  20. Here is the answer:
    Less police is his idea.

    1. The police certainly did not seem to have provided a polished and professional performance. Certain camera footage looks to me like there was a machsom which may have blocked egress becoming been the proximate cause of the tragedy.

      But this was a known and identified accident, waiting to happen at this particular spot. You can't ignore that.

  21. Lehavdil, here in England we have the annual Glastonbury Festival. 200,000 people attend rural Somerset, close to the fabled tomb of a figure from antiquity. To be fair, there is little threat of missile fire from Iranian sponsored terrorists from over the nearby Welsh border. But this is a rural area with limited infrastructure. And it's run privately, on someone's farm. So how do we keep it safe?

    1) Spread it out - in space and in time.
    2) Tickets.
    3) Organisers are personally liable for mishaps. So if there is an uninsurable risk the event wouldn't happen. Organisers have their own security, and the police are low profile within the festival, and mainly operate beyond the curtilage. This prevents a them and us mentality. And it means that the cost of private events are absorbed by the profit making entity holding them
    4) Local government lays on additional access routes and car parking.
    5) Festival goers are encouraged to be responsible with their litter and facilities appropriate to anticipated visitors are provided.

    I think some of those ideas are relevant here.

    1. I don't think you're off the mark- but your suggestions are somewhat utopian & begs more problems:
      1) Spread it out: Who gets to be close to the actual קבר, and who gets exiled to third class? Who gets to go prime time & who gets the red eye?
      2) Tickets. Fraud, scalping & gate crashing (some will try to dig their way in!). Free tickets will be awarded to those with the proper protexia. Large families will be priced out due to the expense.
      3) Organisers? Or chap-lap machers? Personally liable? How? Try bleeding a turnip!
      4) This is the most plausible suggestion. By the time such infrastructure is built for the 100,000 guests (by 2035?) - there will be 250,000 guests.
      5) Typical British cultural imperialism. What right do have to impose your Victorian hygienic sensibilities onto to the natives?

      To summarise: sensible suggestions but too revolutionary for the moment.

    2. I wish number five could applied across the board, including to El Al flights...

      But regardless of the drawbacks, these ideas can be a beginning.

  22. The people responsible for this massacre are
    1) The cops, for closing the passageway
    2) Hachnasos Orchim Derashbi for refusing to renovate, saying it goes against the mesora.

  23. Sholi Katz - Monsey NYMay 3, 2021 at 8:31 AM

    For some reason no one brings up the subject is RASHBI really buried there?? There was many travelers to Israel in the 1200 -1500 that went there and wrote about it. Seems no one claimed they went to Rashbi grave. Interesting! NO? They all say there was a monument for Rasbi and his son in the courtyard of a yeshiva or Shul. The would keep the ner tomid on top of the monument as Meron is the place of Tokyah where Reasbi re-established a yeshiva. They build this monument with the ner tomid to honer him, basically they did it in the courtyard since they could not keep a fire, a ner tomid burning continuously inside the shul. Many claimed they could see these monuments from Tzfas and many state there was a tree in middle of the monuments where people sat under for shade. For some odd reason after a while it was claimed - he is really buried there. I searched for several days to see if I can find a drawing of this monument and B"H found one in an old sefer. Things don't change someone starts something and us hamoyn Am falls for it hook, line, and sinker

  24. But of course as a people now is a good time for a communal cheshbon hanefesh. As Rav Soloveitchik taught while we only ask why on tisha bav, we always ask what -what does HKB"H want from us?

    Perhaps think about:

    יג וַיָּבֹא שְׁמוּאֵל, אֶל-שָׁאוּל; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ שָׁאוּל, בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה לַיהוָה--הֲקִימֹתִי, אֶת-דְּבַר יְהוָה. 13 And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him: 'Blessed be thou of the LORD; I have performed the commandment of the LORD.'
    יד וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל, וּמֶה קוֹל-הַצֹּאן הַזֶּה בְּאָזְנָי, וְקוֹל הַבָּקָר, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ. 14 And Samuel said: 'What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?'………….17 And Samuel said: 'Though thou be little in thine own sight, art thou not head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed thee king over Israel;
    יח וַיִּשְׁלָחֲךָ יְהוָה, בְּדָרֶךְ; וַיֹּאמֶר, לֵךְ וְהַחֲרַמְתָּה אֶת-הַחַטָּאִים אֶת-עֲמָלֵק, וְנִלְחַמְתָּ בוֹ, עַד כַּלּוֹתָם אֹתָם. …………
    כד וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל-שְׁמוּאֵל חָטָאתִי, כִּי-עָבַרְתִּי אֶת-פִּי-יְהוָה וְאֶת-דְּבָרֶיךָ: כִּי יָרֵאתִי אֶת-הָעָם, וָאֶשְׁמַע בְּקוֹלָם. 24 And Saul said unto Samuel: 'I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words; because I feared the people, and hearkened to their voice.


    1. The problem is that without a navi, everyone's cheshbon will be individualized.

      Rationalists might says that "we see from here that safety recommendations are important, and how one should work with the government" while others will say "This tragedy would not have happened if we were davening with more kavanah and having the proper emuna!"

  25. Your comments echo Rav Tamir Granot's evaluation of Charedi society in this excellent video:

  26. Misleading information alert Deri overrode the Covid concerns of the health ministry. I did not see it reported that he ignored overcrowding concerns.

  27. The post appeals to the Charedi community, given the exponential increase in its size, to appreciate its role in society and consider the impact its actions and decisions have on the country as a whole. While raising important points, such an approach is unlikely to sway most Charedim. Another approach, perhaps more persuasive (at least for the Charedi community), would be to highlight the pain and suffering that the community’s policies and actions inflict on itself. Consider the following:

    a) Meron: Yes, there were some non-Charedi politicians and police officers who contributed to the tragedy and may be reprimanded or possibly lose their positions. But of the 45 victims who perished, how many were not Charedi?

    b) COVID: Yes, the Charedim not adhering to lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings increased the risk of transmission for the entire community and necessitated additional lockdowns and other COVID-related restrictions borne by the whole country. But, the Charedi community’s hospitalization and mortality rates were WAY above those of the community-at-large. It has been reported that over a third of Bnei Brak residents contracted COVID (and the number could be much higher). Among the senior population, it has been reported that over 1 in every 75 Charedim over the age of 65 has succumbed to the virus. Ain bayis asher ain sham meis. At least among the Charedim.

    c) Kollel: Yes, the country as a whole may be indirectly affected in terms of reduced economic output, increased security risk, and diminished morale. But those living the Kollel lifestyle are the ones languishing and suffering, bearing its direct brunt. Don’t take my word from it. Take Adopt-a-Kollel’s: “People don't have food. Literally. Children go hungry." ( Or Mishpacha magazine’s (

    The Charedi community suffers greatly from many of its policies. By focusing more on the self-inflicted harm generated by Charedi policies and activities (and less on the community’s obligations to the country as whole), Charedim are more likely to rethink their broader outlook, social contract, communal obligations, and kollel lifestyle in their own best interests, which will ultimately benefit the entire country, but the Charedi community the most.


    Rav Cherlow apparently agrees


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