Ahead of all events where large crowds are expected, Magen David Adom conducts training drills and prepares for all sorts of scenarios. The Lag B’Omer celebration at Mt. Meron is no exception. More than 150 lives were saved last year, thanks to this training.
But as the country mourns the 45 men and boys who were crushed to death in a human stampede, precautions have been taken by the police to prevent a similar tragedy when Lag B’Omer celebrations begin on the evening of Wednesday, May 18th, including limiting the number of attendees, disallowing temporary shelters, and removing obstacles, such as the staircase that was the impetus of the disaster.
On Monday, MDA held a multi-casualty drill at Mt. Meron, together with the Israeli police and fire department. Among the paramedics and EMTs who participated include many who staffed last year’s event and felt compelled to come back.
“I always remember Meron as a happy event, one that brings people closer, but the disaster last year has ruined this memory. It’s important to return to the mountain in happier circumstances and that, please God, everyone will enjoy themselves and return home safely,” said Omri Gorga, 28, a paramedic and medical school student.
During the festivities in Meron that will take place from Wednesday evening until Friday afternoon, hundreds of MDA EMTs and paramedics, in cooperation with dozens of collaborating rescue organizations operating under MDA will be on alert, prepared to respond to any emergency. A fleet of Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulances, Medicycles, 4×4 lifesaving vehicles, an intensive care bus, and helicopter are standing by.
“As in past years, we conducted a multi-casualty exercise to be prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best,” said Eli Bin, MDA director-general. “Unfortunately, last year the practice became a very difficult reality in which our teams were forced to operate in one of the greatest disasters in Israel’s history. It is my sincere hope that the new guidelines developed by the police to avoid overcrowding will enable thousands of revelers to return home happily and safely.”
Reflections from Mt. Meron 2021
Paramedic Kfir Aish, 37, has attended every Meron festival as part of the MDA team for the past 22 years since he was an MDA youth volunteer, and is returning this week. Last year, he pronounced 39 victims dead. “Two things are engraved on my mind – the beautiful face of the child with braces on his teeth, and a phone that kept ringing in one of victim’s pockets with ‘My Dear Wife’ on the screen. I knew she was worried about him and wanted to hear good news, but I understood that in just a few moments her life would change forever.”
Racheli Danchi, 32, is an ambulance driver and EMT. “Last year’s disaster is an incident that I’ll never forget, the noise and the screaming at the beginning, and then the horrifying, deafening silence. I’m counting the hours until this year’s event and hope, please God, that everything will pass by peacefully. I need to mend my soul.”
Maimon Gabai, 40, treated two children who were seriously injured. They are still in the hospital, and he visits them regularly. “Before the disaster I used to go up to the mountain almost every Thursday and Friday, but since then I’ve been going back much less frequently. As someone who has been at the scene of terrible terror attacks, I think it’s important that I go back to the scene a year later, to have a better experience.”