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.