Israel today mourns the deaths that fell during the disastrous celebration on the Meron Mountain, in the north of the country. A huge number of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered on Friday on the mountain, where the tomb of a famous rabbi of the second century is located. Experts have long been warning that the terrain is not suitable for large masses of people.
Despite this, Friday was extremely busy: not the allowed ten thousand people had gathered, but possibly even a hundred thousand. After a call to leave the grounds, many visitors became constricted on the way out. In addition, a total of 45 people were killed, including children.
At the same time, it exposes tensions between the government and the ultra-Orthodox religious community, the Haredis. That community is distrustful of the authorities. Moreover, the community is growing: now 12% of the population belongs to the Haredis.
Many members of the community feel that the government is guilty of the chaos:
The Israeli rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, Haredi himself, certainly sees that the community could take more responsibility, but emphasises that in this case there were no people who did not comply with the rules at all. “This event was allowed by the police.”
According to Pfeffer, the isolated way of life is a source of pride for ultra-Orthodox Jews. However, according to him, this does not mean a lack of cooperation. “In my view, it is a duty of the ultra-Orthodox community to accept a kind of bourgeois obedience. Not just for ourselves, but for all of Israel. That‘s something we all need.”
Many ultra-Orthodox Jews go so far that they do not recognize the State of Israel, from religious values, as a country. Pfeffer nuances that institution.
“ The ultra-Orthodox community has an ambivalent relationship with the State of Israel,” he says. “But in the end, we all live here on the same piece of land. We try to work together while everyone tries to keep their own identity. But in the end there is a sense of brotherhood. Unfortunately, it is often the tragic things and the disasters that bring us together.”
According to Pfeffer, more responsibility cannot come from one side: he calls on the secular community to make concessions as well. “If you ask ultra-Orthodox community to cooperate, you can’t do that on your own terms. Because that is in a very secular way.”