JERUSALEM – A teenager from New Jersey was among the Americans who died on Friday at a religious festival in Israel, the office of the country’s chief rabbi David Lau confirmed on Sunday.
Donnie Morris, 19, was named by the office as the 45 people killed in the crash, along with Eliezer Zvi Józef, 26, and Menachem Noblowitz, 22, both from New York. Yousef Amran Tauber and Yousef Kahn were also killed. Their age and gender status were not released.
Jonathan Schreyer, who is temporarily in charge of the US work in Israel, confirmed on Twitter that 6 citizens and 2 legal permanent residents were among the dead.
Morris conducted research in Israel, his uncle, Rabbi Yehiel Morris, told several media outlets on Saturday after confirming his nephew’s death.
As Israel watched a day of mourning on Sunday, flags across the country were lowered to half-staff to honor the dead in one of the country’s worst civilian disasters.
According to Jewish tradition, funerals were held as late as possible. More than 20 of the victims were buried overnight after the completion of official identification.
The deadly onslaught occurred during the Lag BaOmer celebrations on Mount Meron in northern Israel, next to the tomb of an ancient Jewish mystic, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Every year, tens of thousands of people – mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews – flock to the area to celebrate the rabbi and light fires as part of the celebrations. The event was the first mass religious gathering held legally since Israel lifted almost all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not clear what caused the pressure, but videos show people being pulled back and forth by the huge momentum of the crowded crowd. Other images of the event show a crowd of people, mostly men dressed in black, spilling down a narrow aisle in the open.
Questions were raised as to whether the government and police were reluctant to limit the size of the crowd so as not to anger influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians.
The justice ministry said investigators would investigate whether there had been any police misconduct.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the incident “one of the worst disasters affecting the state of Israel”, also promised an investigation.
Netanyahu visited Rambam Hospital in Haifa on Sunday, praising staff for saving lives.
“One of the parents told me the sentence that sums it all up: ‘Here one reveals that the people of Israel have one heart,’ Netanyahu said in a statement after the visit. “Our hearts are with the wounded and we all hope and pray for their full recovery.”
About 1,400 miles from the Vatican, Pope Francis said in a address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that he would remember the victims and their families in prayer.
Download the NBC News app for current news and policies
“I am sad to express my closeness to the people of Israel over last Friday’s incident on Mount Meron, which killed 45 people and injured many people,” Francis said.
President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Friday and offered US assistance.
“The loss of life among worshipers practicing their faith is heartbreaking,” Biden said in a statement.
Lawahez Jabari reports from Jerusalem and Julia Talmazan from London.
Reuters contributed to this report.