Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Meron: One Year Later

Last year, the terrible tragedy at Meron cost 45 lives, along with the subsequent tragedy at Karlin-Stolin that cost further lives. I wrote a series of posts analyzing different aspects of the tragedies:

The Message Of Meron: The Need to Think Big - About how charedi leadership acts as though they are living in a shtetl rather than thinking about the issues that are of importance with large populations.

The Truth Becomes Clear - But Who Will Listen? - About how safety protocols at Meron were disregarded by charedi politicians who do not care for such things.

The Writing Was On The Wall  - About how previous attempts to remove Meron from the religious authorities who were not running it with sufficient professionalism and safety were opposed by charedi Gedolim.

Denying the Reality of Physics - About how some of the charedi "soul-searching" in the wake of Meron exposed the very anti-rationalist mindset that contributed to the tragedy in the first place.

The Horses of Chelm - A parable.

Die and Don't Learn?! - About the subsequent tragedy at Karlin-Stolin, and charedi reactions that fail to understand the importance of being part of a system of civic law.

Meron: Those Responsible, And Those Responding - About the Askanim, politicians and Gedolim who were responsible for ensuring that Meron did not conform to safety regulations - and the people in the charedi community who recognize this and are furious about it.

Meron: The Unavenged - About charedi and Likud political opposition to forming a State Commission of Inquiry.

How to Avoid Teshuva for Negligent Homicide - About how certain charedi rabbinic leaders and their enablers avoid acknowledging the cause of the tragedy

The Shocking News Report You Missed - About the appalling extent of illegal construction at Meron that was subsequently revealed.

A year later, with Lag B'Omer approaching, there are still people who are making the same terrible mistakes. 

The safety consultant for this year's event at Meron just resigned. He said that his warnings that the site wasn’t prepared to handle the number of people expected tomorrow were ignored. He also charged that decisions were being influenced by outside interests and political considerations. If this is what is happening this year, after all the deaths of last year, and with a non-charedi government, can you imagine what it was like beforehand?!

Meanwhile, Rav Yitzchak Kirschenbaum of Yeshivas Toldos Aharon announced at a large rally that everyone should go to Meron regardless of government attempts to limit the number of participants.

To this day, there are people who believe that the tragedy happened because of police mismanagement at the time. Or that the tragedy was just "one of those things" that inevitably happens occasionally at mass events. Or that it was because of problems of tzniyus, as you can see in the picture of a poster adorning the streets.

Meron was an accident waiting to happen. And it was that way because the movers and shakers in charedi society do not know or care to know about responsibilities which involve professional planning, science, and large-population considerations. It's exactly the same as what we see regarding chareidi negligence towards the economy, towards the IDF, towards Covid. If even 45 people being killed didn't wake everyone up, what hope is there?


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  1. Last week, out of curiosity, I Googled "Lag Ba'omer preparations Meron" or something similar to that effect (in Hebrew) and came across a video shot *the previous day* showing a bulldozer tearing down trinket/souvenir stands that had been erected illegally and were impeding the flow of traffic. Less than two weeks to go to Lag Ba'omer and *the official state authorities* are only *now* getting around to demolishing these illegal structures?!? Where were they this whole past year? I'm not Haredi, and Meron has never been a destination for me, so I can't speak to the mindset of the public that goes there, but why in the world doesn't the government institute some kind of order with time to spare for possible setbacks? Lawlessness, whether in Haredi society of Arab cities, cannot be tolerated if Israel is going to remain a functioning Western nation.

  2. Last year I cynically predicted that a ticketing scheme would fail because of "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."

    Now, that comment of mine was more about cynicism than prognostication. But then again..."everyone should go to Meron regardless of government attempts to limit the number of participants."

    I really hope these people don't listen. While there has been (some/pretense of/inadequate) preparation for the crowds who enter the site legitimately, what procedures are there for to handle the throngs of angry gatecrashers should they show up? How could this possibly end well?

  3. Thought experiment: Publicly announce that all responsibility for the event is being given to the moetzet and attendance is at each individual's personal risk (with no blanket liability waiver for the organizers). Then allow insurance companies to underwrite individual, group and directors risk policies. What would the results be?

    1. I suggested just such a scenario in an article a few months ago. Great minds think alike?

    2. I’d be interested in seeing the article. in my case you might amend the comment to “minds think alike”. Kt

    3. https://darchecha.substack.com/p/should-insurance-companies-run-the

    4. Except that even when the problem is clear, most people (in the haredi world and outside) don't have the power to solve it or to drive the ones at fault out of power. So nothing would change anyway. There are no consequences for bad behavior.

  4. Interestingly, the same people who are very careful about the yichus of their chickens, are probably apt to play down safety violations that led to the Meron tragedy. What happened to chamira sakanta meissura (and common sense)?

  5. Spare us your crocodile tears of over the "terrible tragedy" at Meron. You saw nothing in their deaths except an opportunity to engage in hate. Few things are uglier than insincerity.

    Gershon P.

    1. GershonnP: Shoot the messenger. 45 people died. Whom do you think were responsible? Lawrence Kaplan

    2. Who's message is he passing on? Certainly his own message. Why the need to apportion blame?

    3. His own message of please everyone be careful and not to be reckless. Sounds good to me!

    4. Is it that hard for you to distinguish between hate and mature rational thought? We're talking about extraordinarily irresponsible 'religious' behavior that led to 45 deaths and many long term injuries.

    5. I think that you just squandered (Gershon P) a golden opportunity to fulfil the מצות עשה דאורייתא of בצדק תשפוט את עמיתך. Why attribute malign motivation to R' Slifkin instead of assuming the best? - that he is genuinely concerned to preserve the lives of innocents who have been endangered, and tragically many killed, through the irresponsibility and negligence of some rabbonim and community leaders for whom any adherence to safety standards and rules is tantamount to apikorsus.

    6. Yitz, Gershon is a conspiracy theorist. Their entire life is about assuming malign motivations.

    7. Ahh, "conspiracy theory", the last refuge of the unprincipled. There is neither conspiracy nor theory here - it is YOU, and you alone, so far as I can tell, who tried to make political hay of their deaths. What would you think if Charedi Roshei Yeshiva's commented on the security failures that allowed Arab infiltrators into religious settler communities ? You would think it none of their business at best, and infuriating at worst, and don't pretend otherwise. That's exactly what you look like with your hollow expressions of "concern" for these religious Jews.

      Yitz - Natan Slifkin has a track record. One need not and should not naively "דן לכף זכות" someone like that.

      (Dr. Kaplan - I respect your scholarship. Fault is never a simple matter. In most cases there are multiple contributors to causation, and comparative negligence is one of the most difficult things in the legal world to ascertain. It can be debated, but it is beside the point. The blog host here does not care about such Jews, the community that rejected him, and has now transitioned his blog into essentially an anti-Semitic one focusing on Charedi Jews. As pathetic as that is by itself, its even worse when one tries the "but its for their own good" canard offered by Jewish Jew-haters throughout the centuries.)


    8. Have principled people never accused others of being conspirators?

      The way to operate is to demonstrate the malign motives till the agreement of as many as possible. By for example proving the innocence of all segments, higher and lower, type A and type B, Machers and hoi polloi, of the Chareidim. When that is shown, all who disagree will be shown up for being the despicably unprincipled characters you say that they are.
      Then give up on all who don't get it.

    9. And with a two-word epithet ("conspiracy theorist") Slifkin washes his hands of the entirely true observation of hate-mongering.

      Note for mockers, conspiracies are commonplace. Concocting the entirely fake (and later acknowledged by the US government as such) Gulf of Tonkin incident involved a number of people, whoever they are and in whatever positions of power they occupied, in out and out of government (ie the media), collaborating (ie...conspiring) to hatch the scheme. Just to mention one such incident that led to a war with millions of casualties and ruined lives. There any number of such incidents, with more and less documentary evidence in support of such claims, but people want to believe what they want to believe.

      They also want to believe that real, malevolent, evil does not exist, because it does not make sense to them. Evil is an abstraction to them.

    10. @Shimshon, you might be right. But first please prove that you yourself aren't using a two word epithet ("hate mongering") to tar his hands. Otherwise you're just arguing in circles.

  6. I think some safety precautions are obviously important but many regulations are bureaucratic nonsense. It’s easy to assume a given rule falls into that category. That excuse no longer applies after what happened last year.

  7. As with much dangerous and reckless behavior, the odds might still favor everything probably being ok. And so next week if/when all goes smoothly, reckless people will look back and say, you see, it wasn’t such a big deal. And they will somehow use this to “prove” that they weren’t reckless…. But of course whether some horrible outcome did or didn’t happen will never prove anything of the sort.

  8. There may be more fatalities this year because when the Jewish people do not repent from the idolatry of veneration of created entities and prayer to them and burning things in their honor, God killed forty-five people last year, people treated it as happenstance. It says in the Rebuke of Deuteronomy that if you treat god’s punishment as happenstance, he will redouble his punishment.

    1. Where was the rebuke of [Leviticus] all these centuries?

  9. Also this:
    Police officers from the Northern District Central Unit stopped a minibus with women and men in the Kadarim area this evening (Tuesday), some of whom belong to an extremist faction in the ultra-Orthodox sector.

    Police said that during a search of the minibus, four bags full of Japanese knives, hammers, paint eggs, and gloves were found, which were allegedly intended to be used to sabotage the electricity, communications, publicity, and screens set up

    Six of the minibus passengers were arrested and taken for questioning at the police station.

    "The Israel Police takes the behavior of law-breaking extremists very seriously, who are trying in every possible way to sabotage the event" the police said. "Damage to the infrastructure, in addition to damaging the event and causing mental anguish to the partygoers, could cause a real danger to those staying at the site in the event that the infrastructure of command and control of the event were damaged

  10. Excellent - well said. Thank you.

  11. Will you be commenting on the Kanievski inheritance dispute

    1. You don't understand how things work. If for example the SCOTUS is set to repeal R vs. W, Rabbi S won't comment. Let everyone think for himself. But then when RJDB publicizes a view to shape public opinion that Rabbi S disputes, RS will write about it. The Kanievski inheritance is an internal matter that at least so far no one feels to comment about. It'll wait for Bais Din if necessary. What would you want Rabbi S to do? Is there some- thing or one that should be corrected?

  12. I agree with everything you have written except

    "To this day, there are people who believe that the tragedy happened ..... because of problems of tzniyus, as you can see in the picture of a poster adorning the streets."

    The poster says that a *reaction* should be to avoid problems of tzniuus. Not that that was the cause.

  13. This looks to me like two sides that deserve each other.
    The State of Israel's incompetence matches that of those communities who are trying to undermine them.
    They had a year to take care of things, and they did a few cosmetic things. Why doesn't the square in front of the Kever look like the Kosel, with huge openings to facilitate crowds? It looks like they want the smallest openings possible, so that they can be the ones to control the crowds, instead of actually saving lives.

    The foolish statements of Mr Kirschenbaum need to be placed in context. They are a sub-group of a sub-group of a vilified sub-group. They exist to provoke, not to actually do anything. Their statements do not reflect much and we should be focused on the failures of the State, who do represent the public and are paid by them.

    If this is the state we have been waiting for for 2000 years, it is one big mistake.

    1. " it is one big mistake."

      One? Big?

  14. What's your number? The crematorium is very busy and waiting for you!

  15. How to ‘deal’ with Meron in ???? easy steps
    1. Spend ten months in ‘discussions’, ostensibly about safety, about the legality of structures in the area. Do not focus on safety and crowd control, only legality and zoning.
    2. Two months before the event, make a big show of knocking down all illegal structures, as though safety and legality were one.
    3. Leak all kinds of plans to the public, so that they will be happy with the final one.
    4. Blame ‘extremists’ for conspiracy theories, all the while not having any actual plan for safety. Claim it was them who don’t care about safety, projecting everything about yourself on others.
    5. Come up with a totally unworkable plan, a plan that relies on people checking their watches and seeing that a 500NIS fine is coming up, and deciding themselves to follow the rules. All in a country that is not England, where rule keeping is not a cultural more.
    6. When the actual day comes, make a big show of the handful of extremists who have come to make trouble, preparing a suitable place to park the blame for any mistakes.
    7. When the public sees what the chances of a successful event are, they decide on their own to stay home, saving the police the bother.
    8. When the inevitable happens, and people don’t leave, punish them. Not the rule breakers, but those who listened to instructions, bought tickets and are waiting at the bottom of the mountain, with no electricity, food, bathrooms or basic place to sit down (remember, not everyone is under the age of 40).
    9. When thousands and thousands of people are frustrated, with their tickets rendered invalid due to the actions of the police, a couple of them will do something drastic. As crowds tend to act, things will spiral out of control. Especially when the ‘well-trained’ police force only know one way to control others – with petch. (Of course, as anyone with children can tell you, force does not work, and never has worked. But when the only requirement is ‘someone to blame’, force is fine)
    10. Close the entire mountain to everyone, including those who bought tickets, again punishing the innocent and only the innocent for the actions of the guilty.
    11. Announce the situation as a success, as 45 people less dies this year than last year.
    12. When next year nobody believes the government and thousands show up without tickets and ignore the barriers, blame ‘the others’ again and things can go back to normal.

    I skipped many steps of the stupidity and mis-focus of the Israeli government. But any attempt to blame Charedim and Charediism for this collosal fashla is just a product of past biases. The Israeli government is a collossal failure and it is only with Nissim that Klal Yisroel survived their actions. Nobody who lives in Eretz Yisroel with open eyes can remain a rationalist. With the State of Israel on one side and the Arabs on the other, every survivor is a chidush.

    1. You're good at kvetching and haven't actually suggested any aspects of a solution.
      Because the problem is very very difficult. I sure as heck am not going to suggest anything!
      Problem: How to you safely manage 100,000 people in a small area that as of yet has no infrastructure for such a crowd?
      1) You must find and implement a solution in one year. Of course, you can't even start finding a solution until you address the political question as to who's going to be on the committees and inquests. So it's actually less than a year.
      2) Any solution must also address the fact that the solution will not be acceptable to a large percentage of the crowd. This is because that for a solution to be effective, it must be enforced by a sovereign power. Sovereignty is forbidden under the שלוש שבועות. Therefore for the קנאים, any solution that is effective, is ipso facto illegitimate. The more "moderates" would still view any solution with prima facie suspicion. And a significant percentage of those who would see the solution as acceptable would nevertheless seek ways to bend the rules or behave in a manner that the rules don't apply to them. You know, like speed limits, no smoking areas, and double dipping.
      3) The solution must deal with contingencies. Staff and crew may not show up completely. What if there are delays in implementation? What if supplies or equipment are delayed or otherwise missing?
      4) The solution must be perfectly implemented as if it were routine and had been applied and refined for decades.

      Now for some of your details:
      "Spend ten months in ‘discussions’": Would you prefer six weeks?
      " make a big show of knocking down all illegal structures, as though safety and legality were one." Would you prefer a small show (how is demolition small?)? Would you prefer if the demolition were to be divided into illegal and unsafe structures separately?
      " a plan that relies on people checking their watches ". Yes, most plans require you to look at your watch. Like making minyan, a flight or a soft boiled egg. There's no hardship to tell people that they are limited to four hours. Unless they've selfish morons who don't care that others are waiting for their turn. Who can party for that long?
      "make a big show of the handful of extremists who have come to make trouble" So you're saying the Zionist gov't is behind the anti-Zionist extremists?
      "When the inevitable happens, and people don’t leave" It's inevitable that people won't leave?
      " Announce the situation as a success" No one is going to claim credit for this.

      "The Israeli government is a collossal failure"
      Colossal failures in government would include:
      1) Economic: Widespread poverty (excluding self-afflicted) and low standard of living (excluding self-afflicted)
      2) Security: Crime and wars with mass casualties
      3) Health: Infant mortality. Low life expectancy. Critical shortages of medicine and hospital staff.
      4) Education: Low literacy and low rates of higher education (excluding self-afflicted)
      None of that applies to Israel. What may apply is:
      5) Corruption: Shall we discuss Deri & Litzman? Or who supported Metzger?

    2. 90% of the attendees were ready, willing and able to listen to instructions. The Kano'im were not the problem, as anyone who saw the clips can see. The stones and hair pulling was Kano'im, but they weren't the problem, that's not why the entire event imploded. They arrived after the entire thing was out of control, and they were protesting the memorial ceremony that some forced on the crowd. The overall problem was the lack of thought.

      People can theoretically look at their watches and take personal responsibility. But a system that relies on 16,000 doing so is plain folly. The backstop of their entire plan was a 500NIS fine?!?!?!? Does that work in any other sector? Do Israeli drivers change their behavior for a measly fine?

      The idea that it would be unacceptable to most of the crowd is a mistake for another reason. They could have dealt with issues like that by making things clear that it was not a Chiloni takeover of the area. One of the first leaks of the Vaadah was a plan to have only one hadlakah and a Zionist Rabbi to light it. What kind of fool suggests a thing like that? If you want the actual people who are involved to take you seriously, why would you suggest something as counter-productive as that?
      Then the idea of a memorial ceremony. Most people there did not want anything like that, especially after they already had one, with the Boyaner Rebbe lighting candles. But even if most people did want it, it is another expression of a State takeover of a place that was treated for years in a different way. They are feeding the Kano'im's narrative and making things worse.

      There was a solution available, but the myopia of the state officials did not allow them to see it. The Israeli police does not understand crowd control, but there are people who excel at that. And those are the Chassidim themselves. Chassidim love crowd control. When they can organize a major trip, tish, wedding or other event, with sadrooonim and askooonim with armbands and vests, they are in their element.
      They wouldn't have made the mistake of having people at the bottom of the mountain waiting for people to leave, without bathrooms. They wouldn't have allowed the pressure to build up until everything imploded. They would have known that more entrances are needed, not constant roadblocks. Ask any Gerrer to describe his Rebbe's tisch and he will explain with pride how a room of tens of thousands of people empties out in minutes, with the organizational abilities of their schvitzers.

      I know what answer people will give - the Charedim had their chance and botched it up. Which shows how people view 'charedim' as a monolithic group and blames all for the problems of some. Lending credence to the complaints of the Kano'im, and allowing the issue to fester.


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