I was planning to write about the politics of forming a coalition and how Bibi was squandering his remaining political legitimacy by trying to illegally appoint a Minister of Justice to possibly aid his own legal proceedings and how the high court was poised to declare the entire process a sham.
I was planning to write about Bibi’s last minute turn – about how he ended up appointing Benny Ganz, his current coalition partner turned opponent, to be the acting Minister of Justice.
I was planning to write about Bibi’s desperate last days as the clock runs out on his coalition-building efforts and how a new coalition may be emerging, headed by Naftaly Benet head of a smaller right-wing party and how, in spite of Bibi’s political struggles and gross miscalculation, many in Israel, including liberals with strong feelings about the need for a new Prime Minister, remain convinced that "in an emergency there is no better leader for Israel than Bibi" – as a liberal American Israeli had told us over a brunch of bagels and lox.
Then, as Israelis say, "the events on the ground" took precedent. The events on the ground.
The message was on my phone screen this morning when I picked it up from my night stand.
44 died in a religious stampede in Israel
We rushed to the living room and turned on Channel 11, which was running day-long coverage. Men dressed in Hasidic garb were being interviewed while frantic emergency crews rushed the injured to waiting ambulances and helicopters. It wasn't long before the politicians showed up.
Mount Meron is visited annually on this day by hundreds of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox. They travel to the Galilee tomb of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag Baomer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.
Unlike the Western Wall, which is managed directly by the Israeli government, the site on Mount Meron is controlled by multiple Ultra-Orthodox groups; they share the responsibility for administering the site and managing access to the tomb.
This year after Israel "reopened," over 100,000 traveled on buses and trains to the sacred site to participate in the celebrations. The site has been known to be unsafe and inadequate for such large gatherings. Years of warnings by experts – including a report issued 13 years ago by the State Comptroller of Israel – warned of an impending disaster unless major improvements to infrastructure, access and emergency procedures are implemented.
By the afternoon, the number of confirmed dead was 45, with another 10 gravely injured. This disaster could have been far worse if it had not been for the quick action of the local police and emergency crews. The photos and names of many of those killed were online shortly; most were interned before Shabbat, in accordance with Jewish customs.
Sunday will be a national day of mourning. Yet Israelis, accustomed to balancing a deep sense of anguish with the need to move forward, are back focusing on the next steps – establishing responsibility, assigning blame and looking for their temporary government to agree on how to properly investigate the entire affair.
On Sunday morning, as the last few victims will be identified and interned, Israeli politicians will continue to maneuver towards a new coalition. The spectre of another election, even for ballot-tested Israelis, is something most would like to avoid.
With somber music on the radio and more revelations about the disaster on Mount Meron, life in Israel will not change much. Except for the families who will now mark Lag Baomer with Yahrzeit candles for those they lost there.
Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit invites the entire community to gather to mourn those who were lost and stand in solidarity with the People of Israel. Click here to register for the zooom ceremony, Sunday at 7pm.
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