THE Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Chief Rabbi in the UK were among prominent secular and religious figures to offer sympathy to Israel after a stampede last Friday at a Jewish festival resulted in the deaths of at least 45 people. Thousands had gathered at Mount Meron to mark the Hasidic religious festival of Lag B’Omer.
On Sunday, Israel observed a national day of mourning, while the last of the funerals were held. The youngest pilgrim to die was aged nine, the oldest 65. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing an ongoing political crisis and legal proceedings, called for a national day of mourning after visiting the site of the disaster. “Let us all unite with the grief of the families and pray for the peace of the wounded,” he said.
A message from the Queen was delivered earlier to the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin. She expressed deep sadness, saying that her “thoughts are with those who have been injured and the friends and families of those who have lost their lives. They have my deepest sympathy.”
Archbishop Welby posted a message on social media which spoke of the “deeply upsetting scenes at Mount Meron. May God be with those who grieve those wounded and all those traumatised by this disaster. Let us pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters at this time of great grief. May the memory of those lost be a blessing.”
The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said: “As we struggle to come to terms with the horrific scenes of tragedy in Meron — the worst peacetime loss of life in Israel’s history — this is a moment to unite in grief and prayer. May the memory of those lost to us for ever be a blessing, and may the injured be granted a speedy recovery.”
Pope Francis, in his weekly address on Sunday, said: “With sadness I express my closeness to the people of Israel because of the accident last Friday at Mount Meron, which caused the death of 45 people and numerous injuries. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for the victims of this tragedy and for their families.”
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, sent a message to President Rivlin expressing his sorrow for “the tragedy that claimed the lives of dozens of victims. . . We are praying for the victims and hope for the recovery of those injured.” The leaders of Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates also sent messages of condolence.