According to reports 45 people died including children after being crushed to death during a stampede at a Jewish festival being held at Mount Meron in Northern Israel. It is being called the “worst peacetime disaster” in Israel’s history.
Approximately 100,000 people were attending the Lag B’Omer festival when people tripped on a large packed staircase resulting in several falling upon each other leading to the stampede.
At least 150 people were injured with several in critical condition.
The Lag B’Omer festival celebrated annually in Israel is considered a minor festival as it is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
It honours the passing of a mystic rabbi from the 2nd century, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who is considered the founder of Kabbalah, a mystical sect of Judaism. Rabbi Yochai was buried at Mount Meron.
READ: Two pairs of young brothers are among 45 dead in Israeli festival stampede: Orthodox community lays victims to rest as survivors tell how children were crushed beneath them as they fought to stay alive in stampede AND ‘Great Tragedy’ in Israel as More Than 40 Killed, 150 Injured in Stampede and
Lag B’Omer is among eight minor festivals celebrated annually in Israel. Their celebration dates vary because they are based on the Jewish lunar calendar. Some of these festivals, like Lag B’Omer, are not universally celebrated by all Jews:
- Purim held in March celebrates the Jewish deliverance in the Book of Esther.
- Festival of lights (held around Christmas) celebrates the re-dedication of the Second Jewish Temple.
- Tisha B’Av held in July and August remembers the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 586 BC.
- Yom Hashoah remembers the Jewish holocaust during World War II and is held on the liberation date of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz and falls in April or May.
- Rosh Chodesh is held on the first day of each Jewish month, unless it falls on a Sabbath, as it is treated as an additional Sabbath day. It marks the start of the new lunar month.
- Tu bi-Shevat is the Jewish New Year celebration typically held in January and is often commemorated by planting trees.
- Yom Haatzmaut or independence days celebrates the formation of Israel as a nation in 1948 and is held sometime in April and May.
The main Biblical feasts of Israel listed in Leviticus 23 (again celebration dates vary as they are based on the Jewish lunar calendar) include:
- Passover is celebrated sometime during March and April. It remembers how during their Egyptian captivity, that the angel of death passed over their homes during the judgment of the First born in Egypt because they had put the blood of the lamb on their door frames. This is one of Israel’s three pilgrimage feasts when they journey to Jerusalem. The other two pilgrimage feasts are the Feast of Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles.
- Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated during March and April. It takes place immediately after Passover and during this feast, Jews eat bread with no yeast to remember how they left Egypt in haste.
- Feast of First Fruits, celebrated sometime during March through June, honours the start of harvest and acknowledges their dependency on God.
- Feast of Pentecost (also called Feast of Weeks or Shavout) is celebrated during May and June. It is one of Israel’s three pilgrimage feasts when the Jews brought an offering of the first fruits of their harvest.
- Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) celebrated during September or October. During this feast trumpets are sounded to announce the end of the agricultural season.
- Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) celebrated during September and October. During this feast the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies to make an offering on behalf of the sins of Israel.
- Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Feast of Booths) celebrated during September and October. Remembers Israel’s time in the wilderness as they had to live in tents during their journey to the Promised land. This is one of Israel’s three pilgrimage feasts when they travel to Jerusalem.
The Feast of Tabernacles is additionally described as a feast that will endure forever (Leviticus 23:41), meaning it will always be celebrated, suggesting that the other festivals will come to an end.