The gloomy mood was accompanied by fierce public debate and accusations of the behavior of key government officials, as well as Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities, from which most of the dead and wounded come.
Early Sunday morning, officials from the Institute of Forensic Medicine said all bodies had been identified, with all but one being transferred to families for burial. The final body is expected to be released in the coming hours.
Tensions are rising in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods with some people angry that the process did not end before the Sabbath, which means they have to wait more than a day to bury their loved ones.
Police said dozens of ultra-Orthodox men blocked a main street in Jerusalem and set fire to garbage in protest late Saturday night.
Politically, much of the initial blame for the mountain peak disaster has been on Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, whose ministry includes responsibility for the police.
Ohana, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and one of the prime minister’s most loyal allies, appeared at the festival just hours before the crash.
He took to Facebook on Saturday night to praise the police officers involved and said he accepted responsibility for what happened, but not guilt.
“I am responsible, but responsibility does not mean guilt. This year the celebration was held as every year, for hundreds of years, even before the State of Israel was created. There were fewer people during the mountain disaster than in normal years. much less. This disaster happened this year, but it could have happened any other year, “he wrote at the end of a long post.
Eyewitness accounts suggest that the incident – on Mount Meron in the north of the country – occurred when a dense crowd of people tried to leave one of the main venues for festivals on a narrow sloping alley.
People began to slide on the floor and fall to the ground, with those behind them falling on top of them, causing crushing and suffocation, witnesses said.
An official who knows the list of deaths told CNN that they expect the death toll to include five US citizens. Two Canadians were also killed in the crackdown, according to a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
According to the Ministry of Health, more than 100 people were injured. Four remained in critical condition at a hospital on Saturday night.
The mood of the Minister of Public Security Ohana echoed some frank comments a day earlier from Shlomo Levy, former head of the regional council of Merom Hagalil, where the annual religious festival is held.
He told Israeli Channel 13 News that the mountain had been “a time bomb for years” and continued: “I knew it would happen and I even issued an order to close the site. But the police could not enforce it and the minister of public safety was under pressure [to keep it open]. ”
A far smaller event was held last year, but in a few years up to 400,000 people are estimated to be present to sing, dance and light fires at the burial site of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Levy told Channel 13 News that he accused the leaders of the predominantly Hasidic sects participating in the Lag B’Omer festival, along with their political representatives in the government, of leading what he described as the “mafia” that controls the festival’s website.
“This mountain is strange. It is supposed to be pure and religious when in fact it is corrupt in the full sense of the word,” he said.
“There are places in Israel that are outside the jurisdiction of the police, autonomies where the state is not even trying to assert its sovereignty. Rabbi Shimon’s tomb is an autonomy, like the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak,” he wrote.
In a growing indication that tolerance that many Israelis see as ultra-Orthodox may slip away, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has spoken out about the abuses that women soldiers have received in participating in rescue and recovery efforts. the site of the festival.
In a strong statement, the IS said: “At the beginning of the operation to assist the Internal Front Command in the tomb complex on Mount Meron, some of those present began to inflict verbal and physical harm on the IS fighters who were about to evacuate the wounded. its mission, ignoring the abusive behavior. The ID takes the incident very seriously and condemns any violence, physical or verbal, against its soldiers.
Defense Minister Benny Ganz, the former chief of staff himself, tweeted his support for the IDF statement.
Two of Israel’s top politicians, Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, visited Mount Meron on Friday to express their condolences and swear that such a disaster should never happen again.
Both men were hacked by ultra-Orthodox who were still present at the scene, with many blaming police for the fatal pressure. “They closed the barricades until people could not breathe and died,” a man shouted at Bennett.
In comments posted on Twitter on Friday morning, the leader of the largest ultra-Orthodox party in the Knesset, Aryeh Deri of Shas, wrote: “The heart is torn … our dance has become mourning. I call on the public to pray and to break down the gates of heaven to heal the wounded, to support and strengthen families who have lost their relatives … May God wipe away every tear. Amen. “
Neither Derry nor his colleague from the other ultra-Orthodox party represented in parliament, Moshe Gaffney of Judaism in the United Torah, have claimed responsibility.
Both are crucial to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ongoing attempts to form a new government after the unconvincing elections in March.