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Meron: The Unavenged
The new Israeli government has only been in place for a week, and it already has an important accomplishment under its belt - albeit one that ought not to have been an accomplishment at all.
I'm talking about the cabinet decision yesterday to appoint a state commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster - nearly two months after the tragedy happened. One would expect that after the worst civilian disaster in the history of a country, a commission of inquiry would be established immediately. After the Grenfell Tower fire in England, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered an inquiry the very next day. But here in Israel, the establishment of such a politically independent inquiry was blocked by the charedi political parties, because, as they unwittingly let slip, they didn't want charedi politicians and bureaucrats responsible for the disaster to actually have to shoulder the blame. They only wanted an inquiry in which they would be able to control who does the inquiring.
Of course, there weren't enough Charedi MKs to alone be able to prevent an independent commission of inquiry. But they were enabled by MKs in the Likud, a party that often seems to rate loyalty to select politicians as more important than pretty much anything else, including national security. In a shocking tweet yesterday, Likud MK Shlomo Keri declared that "the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster is revenge on the outgoing administration." And Likud MK Katie Shetreet claimed that "The government is not interested in what happened in Meron. Their objective is to embarrass the Haredi MKs, the former Prime Minister, and the families, instead of helping them financially. The government just wants blood and for heads to roll." In fact, the families were begging all along for a state commission of an inquiry
Meanwhile, a large event took place at Binyanei Ha-Umah to mark the shloshim of the Meron victims. It proclaimed to be about how "HaKadosh Baruch Hu has issued a wake-up call that unity and ahavas Yisrael is the call of the hour," and promoted the concept of charedim learning Torah with non-charedim. It was arranged by Kesher Yehudi, an organization which some would describe as seeking to unite different sectors of Israeli society, while others would describe as seeking to do charedi PR/ kiruv with non-charedim. I found the event to be deeply disturbing. The 45 deaths were not caused by a lack of ahavas Yisrael; they were caused by charedi separatism and charedi disregard for civil law and the laws of science. And they want to spin it to be mekarev more people to being charedi?
In case you think that this is too cynical a take, consider this: one of the speakers was none other than Yaffa Deri. That's the wife of Aryeh Deri, perhaps the politician most responsible for the negligence at Meron, who proudly declared before Lag B'Omer that he had managed to prevent any restrictions on the number of people who could attend, because those trying to do so don't appreciate how Rabbi Shimon's merit protects the attendees.
What about the families of the victims? Since they are almost all charedi, naturally some of them are caught up in the charedi Daas Torah/ political spin on things. Still, as noted, they were begging for a state commission of inquiry. And one of the nost prominent families, who are furious with the leadership in their own community that enabled this to happen and sought to prevent a commission of inquiry, made their feelings painfully and blatantly clear. On the tombstones for their sons, the inscriptions end with הי"ד - "May God avenge their blood."
Some are shocked by this phrase, but it is, unfortunately, entirely appropriate. The Torah describes the case of an entirely accidental murder, in which the relative is a goel hadam, one who avenges the blood of the victim. The case of Meron is far worse; it happened due to gross negligence and greed, and justice was being blocked.
It is certainly reasonable for the families of the victims to cry out, "May God avenge their blood." And thanks to the new government of Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and others, with which Daas Torah and charedi politicians do not exert influence, this wish can finally be addressed.