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The Truth Becomes Clear - But Who Will Listen?
As more evidence emerges about what has been happening for the last twenty years, the cause of the Meron tragedy has become abundantly clear.
There is an interview with the former head of the regional council where Mount Meron is located who reveals that for years he tried to eliminate the dangers at the location, but religious groups use government connections and corruption to have the place "in a chokehold." There is a video from the day before the event, in which the charedi head of the local religious council gushes with praise for Aryeh Deri having bulldozed over all the objections from the Health Ministry. Deri himself boasted about how the secular authorities don't appreciate the importance of the event and about how the merit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai provides protection.
In another interview, a former senior police official points out that “If a safety engineer from the police, in their last inspection of the site before the commemoration, would have tried to shutter the Toldot Aharon courtyard [where the disaster occurred] — do you believe that decision would have been enforced? …Not even the chief of police can do that. If someone tries, that’s their last job in the police.” Due to political pressure, the event is, preposterously, legally classified as a "spontaneous religious event," thereby also preposterously entitled to exemption from ordinary safety protocols.
Many are also recognizing the point that I made in the previous post; that the Meron tragedy was but one manifestation of a larger problem which threatens disaster on a national scale. Namely, it is how the charedi community's growing numbers cause all kinds of problems when they refuse to operate according to reality-based values and professional expertise. This is compounded by how their growing numbers also give them the political power to continue in this path, despite its dangers not only to charedim but to the entire country.
A must-read article in The Jerusalem Post connects the dots with the charedi response to Covid, in which the charedi leadership refused to act with responsibility, and Bibi made the entire country pay the price. "If you can put the whole country into lockdown just so the haredim won’t be in a lockdown by themselves, then Meron is simply the extension of such an attitude." And another even more important article connects the dots between Meron and the charedi community's refusal to give their ever-growing population a secular education. "The Bank of Israel and Finance Ministry professionals have only just started putting these predictions down on paper because they have been so intimidated by the politicians. But even as reports surface, Israel’s leaders continue to turn a blind eye... [Netanyahu] is willing to mortgage Israel’s future for short-term political convenience."
Between Covid and Meron, Hashem Himself could not have engineered a more blatant demonstration of the fundamental problems and dangers of the charedi community.
But never underestimate people's ability for cognitive dissonance. Some charedim are trying pin Meron on a police conspiracy to kill charedim, while many others are talking in general fluffy terms about Acts of God (and ignoring how this was instead an Act of Man). Some people in the charedi community are indeed accepting the need for respecting state control, but few are they who are ready to accept the larger message.
The crucial message to learn from all the terrible unnecessary deaths from Covid, and all the terrible unnecessary deaths at Meron, is this: the charedi community needs to make sure that its growing numbers not only do not present a problem of crowding at mass events, but also do not threaten national security and the economy.
It is indeed challenging for someone to accept that their entire religious sub-community has an utterly wrong-headed and dangerous approach to religion and reality. Few are they in the chareidi world who will take the step that Jonathan Rosenblum did, acknowledging that the entire country desperately needs charedim to go against the Gedolim and get academic education and professional employment. But it's not only charedim who need to learn to take responsibility; the rest of us also need to recognize the need to do something about this national disaster-in-the-making.
The charedi journalist who warned about the dangers of Meron several years ago is beating himself up for not having done more to alert people. How many of us, who are aware of the problems and dangers caused by the charedi disregard for education and national responsibilities, are eventually going to be full of regret that we didn't try to do something about it?
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