Sunday was declared a national day of mourning in Israel after 45 people were killed and nearly 150 others were injured during a stampede early Friday morning at a Jewish religious festival in northern Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz suggested that victims be honored on the day of mourning, The Jerusalem Post reports.
The disaster took place at Mt. Meron in northern Galilee where thousands of mostly Ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered for a festival called Lag BaOmer. The festival honors Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic who is buried there. It is unclear what caused the stampede at the popular event, but witnesses described watching people getting crushed.
The Jerusalem Post reported that at least six Americans with ties to the New York area were among those killed.
Netanyahu called the event a “great tragedy” and said, “everyone is praying for the recovery of the injured.”
State flags were lowered to half-mast at the President’s Residence, The Knesset, various public buildings, Israeli embassies, and consulates. Special events and ceremonies originally scheduled for Sunday were canceled.
Knesset members were asked to light candles throughout the lobby of the parliament in memory of the victims.
Meanwhile, a group of retired police commissioners called on the prime minister to begin investigating the horrific event and possible misconduct by law enforcement at the site.
A recurring complaint heard following the incident was that no one was in charge of overseeing the safety measures during the stampede.
The Religious Services Ministry’s National Center for Holy Places is supposedly responsible for managing the site.
Former Deputy Religious Services Minister, Eli Ben Dahan told Kan radio “there’s no one person about whom it can be said that they run the event, that everything falls on their shoulders. I don’t think that a place in the state of Israel should be extraterritorial, that the state doesn’t have any control over it, doesn’t manage it, isn’t responsible for it,” he said.
“We will carry out a comprehensive, serious, detailed investigation to ensure this kind of disaster never happens again,” Netanyahu said.
Public health officials have identified all of the victims; however, one person who attended the event is still unaccounted for.