'You can't move a stone at Meron without facing Hassidic opposition'

Former head of the regional council where Mount Meron is located tells Ynet he for years tried to eliminate the dangers at the location, but religious groups use government connections and corruption to have the place 'in a chokehold'

Ahiye Raved|
As Israel is still grappling with its biggest civilian disaster in the country's history, one of the officials at the local authority where Mount Meron is located said on Sunday it's impossible to even "move a stone" at the location without facing opposition from Hassidic groups.
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  • A stampede that broke out at the Lag BaOmer festivities on Mount Meron overnight Thursday claimed the lives of 45 worshippers, including 10 children. The investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy in underway, with high-ranking Israeli officials being blamed for not appointing a body to oversee the annual event.
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    צילומי הרחפן מהר מירון
    צילומי הרחפן מהר מירון
    Merom HaGalil Regional Council where Mount Meron and the tomb complex of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai are located
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Shlomo Levy, former head of Merom HaGalil Regional Council where Mount Meron and the tomb complex of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai are located, told Ynet that he for years tried to improve the conditions at the mountain, but to no avail.
    "From my knowledge of the place, it is impossible to move a stone there without running into this or that Hassidic group, and if you do move something there, half an hour later you get a phone call from Jerusalem," Levy said.
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Friday launched an investigation into the conduct of police at a deadly crush during Lag BaOmer celebrations and is apparently set to launch a similar probe into the government's conduct.
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    ההרוגים באסון
    ההרוגים באסון
    Images of some of the victim killed in a stampede at Mount Meron
    Levy, however, said that deciding the future of the mountain is more important in the long term than determining who is responsible for last week's events.
    "What will be the fate of the place? What should be done in my opinion, as someone who was dealing with this matter for 10 years, is to expropriate the place from the hands that have it in a chokehold. There is corruption, there is money, there is ego, there is everything - except for the fear of god," he said.
    "This place must be expropriated from the hands of all the Hasidim, of all the rabbis, of all the bavot."
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    הר מירון
    הר מירון
    Tomb complex of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
    (Photo: Yehuda Rozen)
    Levy said he tried to appeal to government officials in order to draft an outline similar to the one implemented at the Western Wall, that gives authority over the place to one body, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
    "I am not such an innocent person and I understand that everything is about political pressure, everything is political interests. And most of all it is a balance of terror in efforts to form government coalitions."
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