Balfour Street Protesters Urge State Investigation into Meron Disaster

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street on Saturday evening, May 1, demanding the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the Mt. Meron festival crush that left 45 dead two days earlier. Police closed several roads in the vicinity as demonstrators filled the streets near the premier’s residence.

"Mourning and United"

“Mourning and United”

Some protesters held signs reading, “We mourn the dead… We are furious at those responsible. Corruption kills,” making reference to Netanyahu’s ongoing trial for corruption. Protesters also lit candles in memory of those who died during the calamity.

“This is a national tragedy that demands personal reckoning,” said protest organizations. “Government corruption is costing human lives.” The organizations called for an official state investigatory committee to be set up to examine the officials charged with running the event. “Government corruption and the alliance between the accused Netanyahu and ultra-Orthodox political parties that allowed for the event once again cost human lives,” said the Crime Minister protest organization which sent condolences to the families of the victims and prayers for the recovery of those injured.

Public Security Amir Ohana, who oversees Israel’s police, said on Saturday night that he is “responsible” for the disaster on Mount Meron, but disingenuously remarked somehow that this “does not mean blame.” Before the disaster, Ohana had publicly thanked Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai, Northern District commander Shimon Lavi and the police forces at the site for “ensuring public safety and order” in anticipation of the celebration to be attended by many tens of thousands. Yet, following the disaster, all Israeli officials are attempting to evade blame for it. The far-right and ultra-Orthodox politicians who are involved in the affair have no interest in creating an investigative body with broad powers. When he visited the site of the deadly crush at the Lag B’Omer celebration on Friday morning, boos and bottles were hurled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Joint List chairman, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) accused Public Security Minister Ohana on Friday of “sweeping disregard for the many warnings and signs of danger.” Odeh added in his tweet, “From the violence and crime that takes place in Arab society to the management his management of the pandemic, to the Meron disaster, the government and the police are closing their eyes and abandoning entire sectors of the public. Ohana must take responsibility for the terrible omission and resign immediately.” The head of the Joint List also spoke of heartache for the dozens of families “left torn and bereaved.” He said he was heartened to see Jews and Arabs work together to respond to the disaster, calling it “a small ray of light in the great tragedy.”

Related: Meron Calamity: MK Odeh Calls on Public Security Minister to Resign