Israel mourns deaths of 45 in stampede at religious festival

On Friday, atleast 45 people were crushed to  death, many injured in a Stampede at religious festival (Lag BaOmer) in northern Israel.

Lag BaOmer is a holiday, and also one of the happiest days on the calendar for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

Is a time of mass celebrations in honor of a revered sage. But in a split second Friday, the festive gathering in northern Israel turned into one of the country’s worst-ever tragedies, with at least 45 people crushed to death and dozens injured in a stampede.

The disaster prompted a national outpouring of grief as devastated families rushed to identify their dead relatives and bury them ahead of the Jewish Sabbath. 

There was also anger toward authorities over an accident that experts had long feared, further clouding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes of remaining in office. 

The PM Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron at midday, offered his condolences. 

"In these moments our people unite and that is what we are doing at this moment as well," he said. 

He announced Sunday would be a day of national mourning and said he had joined the masses of people who donated blood for the victims. 

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin lit 45 candles in honor of the dead. Messages of condolences poured in from around the world. 

The stampede erupted around 1 a.m. as people began to leave and thronged a narrow, tunnel-like passage. 

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