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Sadness and Anger in response to the Meron tragedyI read with great interest what Rabbi Schonfeld

I read with great interest what Rabbi Schonfeld and Rabbi Oppenheimer had to say about the tragedy at Meron. Rabbi Schonfeld expressed

our sadness and compared it to the anguish we feel at other horrific events. Rabbi Oppenheimer brought out the subtle point that even those

who were spared bad news of tragedy in their own family nevertheless were hit by the sober fact that now it is other families' grief for them

to bare and how do the families who were spared feel relief that it wasn’t them without feeling survivor’s guilt? Both sadness and guilt

are emotions that we all feel upon hearing a tragedy of any kind.


However I feel another emotion and that is of anger. Anger? Yes, anger. This was not a natural event such as an earthquake or flood. This

was not perpetrated by the hands of a terrorist that we were unable to prevent. This was not at the hands of a missile or bomb dropped by an

enemy nation state. This was done by the people who were gathered at the event. But it was a freak accident you will say. An accident?


Government officials and Rabbis have warned that such a mass gathering of a hundred thousand celebrants was not a safe practice and Covid

is also still not vanquished so the organizers and the gathered crowd ignored all of that. The fact that people do it every year and nothing bad

happens is not a valid argument because drag racing doesn’t always result in tragedy either but it’s still dangerous to do because sometimes it

ends in tragedy. There is such a thing as an “accident waiting to happen” when an unsafe practice is engaged in. A past mayor of the site had

tried stopping an illegal hostel from being erected because it blocked a key emergency exit but was overruled by the regional chareidi management

and the ramp that many died on during this tragedy was built illegally with unsafe conditions, such as with a steep slope and a metal (slippery) surface.

The NY Times writes that "The group that oversees the area where the disaster occurred, Toldot Aharon, rejects the authority of the state,

and the concept of Zionism, altogether.”


Furthermore, we must look at the mindset of the gathered. If people are already going to flout the advise and guidance of government officials

and even Rabbis, then one could say that there would at least be a vigilant mindset to be circumspect of one’s surroundings. In such a large gathering

in a confined space the obvious danger is stampede by the crowd. Being stampeded by a crowd of people is just as dangerous as being stampeded

by a herd of buffalos. When people carry a gun the last thing they want to do if they are a civil person is to use that gun. To stampede in such a

crowd should be in the minds of those who are there as if they are shooting a gun. The only excuse for a stampede there, would be if there was

a fire behind them or let’s even say a mass shooter. What was the excuse here? The man on the loudspeaker who instructed everyone to leave?


It is explained that people tripped on stairs so they fell on top of others who were below them on the stairs but that wouldn’t be enough to

kill 44 people. Although it certainly does happen that death can result from a fall on stairs the real culprit here was that the crowd behind those

who fell kept pouring through and trampled those who were prone on the ground. This means that all form of communication and signaling

of those who were next to the mallei were totally ignored and ineffective. There essentially was no way to communicate to those

“celebrants” that danger lay ahead.


My European parents would have referred to this mentality as a “hefker velt”. It’s not the hand of G-d who makes people act recklessly and

puts their brethren in peril. But I believe that it is keeping with the times that people indulge in their passions without acting responsibly. Yes,

I said it. It is following American culture to engage in behavior without considering the ramifications to the overall group, in this case the others gathered.


For certain “chareidi” groups to take it upon themselves that they live by a different standard is totally fraudulent and dangerous. Yes,

this form of flouting of government laws and guidelines reminds us of the way these groups ignored warnings of the Corona Virus and suffered

great loss of life as well as spreading it to others. The Corona Virus was still an issue with this gathering as I mentioned before. And let us

not forget that there was a terrible Measles outbreak a few years ago among the Chareidi in Israel that was a threat to spread to other countries. Many

fanatics in Israel also believe that military service is not for them and that the government should sustain their families even as they spend

their whole day learning Torah but not going to work.


The idea that frum people should go against the laws of the country and even demand that the society should sustain their families while

they don’t go to work is an American culture phenomenon. We see it happening in Israel and we see it happening here in the U.S. as well.

The Jews throughout history were afraid of pogroms, massacres and invading armies - all from outside forces. Many of these threats

exist today as well in the form of Iran, Islamic terrorism and domestic mobs who could invade our neighborhoods but the Jews of the past

adhered to government laws and didn’t invite problems unto themselves. We shouldn’t now learn to sabotage our safety and well being by

copying the self destructive practices that we see from others.



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