Teenager among Americans killed in deadly Israel stampede
JERUSALEM — A teenager from New Jersey was among the Americans who died in Friday’s stampede at a religious festival in Israel, the office of the country’s Chief Rabbi David Lau confirmed Sunday.
Donny Morris, 19, was named by the office as being among the 45 people who died in the crush, along with Eliezer Zvi Yuzef, 26, and 22-year-old Menachem Knoblowitz, both from New York. Yousef Amran Tauber and Yousef Kahn were also killed. Their ages and home state were not released.
Jonathan Shrier, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Israel confirmed on Twitter that 6 citizens and 2 Legal Permanent Residents were among the dead.
With a heavy heart I confirm the United States lost 6 citizens and 2 Legal Permanent Residents in the tragedy at Mt. Meron. We continue to work with local authorities to provide all possible support to grieving families.
— Chargé d’Affaires Jonathan Shrier (@USAmbIsrael) May 2, 2021
Morris had been undertaking studies in Israel, his uncle Rabbi Yechiel Morris told several media outlets Saturday, as he confirmed his nephew’s death.
As Israel observed a day of mourning Sunday, flags across the country were lowered to half-staff to honor the dead in what was one of the country’s worst civilian disasters.
In accordance with Jewish tradition, funerals were held with as little delay as possible. More than 20 of the victims were buried overnight after official identification was completed.
The deadly stampede occurred during celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron in northern Israel, by the tomb of an ancient Jewish mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Each year, tens of thousands of people — mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews — throng to the area to celebrate the rabbi and light bonfires as part of the celebrations. The event was the first mass religious gathering to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
April 30, 202101:00
It is unclear what caused the stampede, but video footage showed people being pulled back and forth by the sheer momentum of the tightly packed crowd. Other images of the event showed a mass of people, mostly men clad in black, spilling down a narrow open-air passage.
Questions have been raised as to whether the government and police had been reluctant to limit the crowd size at the site so as not to anger influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians.
The Justice Ministry said investigators would look into whether there had been any police misconduct.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called the incident “one of the worst disasters to hit the state of Israel,” has also promised an investigation.
Netanyahu on Sunday visited Rambam Hospital in Haifa, praising the staff for saving lives.
“One of the parents told me the sentence that summarizes everything: ‘Here one reveals that the people of Israel has one heart,'” Netanyahu said in a statement following the visit. “Our heart is with the injured and all of us hope and pray for their full recovery.”
Some 1,400 miles away in the Vatican, Pope Francis said in his address in St Peter’s Square on Sunday that he would remember the victims and their families in prayer.