Israelis of all sectors mobilize to help Meron victims

From Arab and Druze communities opening their homes to those caught up in the disaster at a mainly Haredi event, to queues at blood donation stations and offers of free counseling, an often divided nation unites in the face of its worst civilian tragedy

Daniel Salami, Liron Nagler-Cohen, Kobi Nachshoni, Itzchak Tessler |
In the face of the worst civilian tragedy to in Israeli history, citizens from all sectors – Jews and Arabs, religious and secular – rallied Friday to support the victims of the stampede that claimed 45 lives at a Lag BaOmer celebration on Mount Meron attended mainly by the ultra-Orthodox community.
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  • Outside Magen David Adom stations across the country, long queues formed of Israelis from all walks of life hoping to donate blood, until the organization asked people to go home and return another day.
    6 View gallery
    תרומות דם
    תרומות דם
    Israelis giving blood in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Friday following the Meron disaster
    (Photo: Tel Aviv Municipality)
    Private groups and local councils flooded social media with offers of accommodation and food while others offered help to locate missing persons, recite psalms and provide hospitality.
    The Hatzor HaGlilit regional council set up a special municipal center to provide accommodation for people who were stranded in the north. The council said that 43 people who had planned to spend a festive Shabbat in Meron have already signed up.
    Residents of the Druze villages of Yarka, Beit Jen and Yanuh-Jat also offered to host people who would not be able to return home before Shabbat in their own homes or their bed and breakfast facilities.
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    הלוויה של משה בן שלום
    הלוויה של משה בן שלום
    A mourner weeps as Meron victim Moshe Ben Shalom is laid to rest in Petah Tikva on Friday
    (Photo: AP)
    Many Arab villages in the Mount Meron area also announced that they would offer assistance to anyone who was injured or stranded after the tragedy.
    “Our hearts go out to the families of those killed in the disaster on Mount Meron and we pray for the recovery of the wounded," said Sheik Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel.
    There is great sadness when you hear the news about a terrible event. All citizens of the country share in the pain of the loss," he said.
    "The members of the Druze community and the Druze villages share in the grief of the families who lost their loved ones, and are ready and willing to provide any help in the Mount Meron area."
    While tens of thousands were leaving the site in private vehicles, many people were still stranded on the mountain who were unable to return home before Shabbat.
    6 View gallery
    משפחות מחפשות מידע על יקיריהן באבו כביר
    משפחות מחפשות מידע על יקיריהן באבו כביר
    A bouquet and candles form a makeshift memorial outside the Abu Kabir forensics center in Tel Aviv where the bodies of the victims were taken for identification Friday
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    Zarzir local council, which is home to many Bedouin Arabs, set up a refreshment station with water, fruit and cold drinks for those returning from Mount Meron to the center of the country via HaMovil Junction.
    The head of the local council, Amir Mazarib, said that everything was strictly kosher.
    "My heart goes out to the families of the disaster and I hope for better days," he said.
    The Ezer Mizion health support organization opened a command center to help locate missing persons. It also opened a hotline for mental counseling, staffed by professionals from its Mental Health Division (Tel: 1-800-808-100).
    "To our great sorrow, a place of prayer and joy became the scene of a disaster," said Rabbi Hanania Chulak, the director of the organization.
    "Volunteers in the Northern District and throughout the country are helping families at this difficult time," he said.
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    Lev Chabad members preparing food for those caught up in the disaster
    Lev Chabad members preparing food for those caught up in the disaster
    Lev Chabad members preparing food for those caught up in the disaster
    (Photo: Lev Chabad)
    Volunteers from Lev Chabad, the association that offers help to patients and their families in Israeli hospitals, was distributing food to the families of those killed and injured in the disaster.
    An optician store in Ramla even offered free replacement glasses to people who lost them in the disaster.
    "Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and injured," said Hadar Miller, senior optometrist at Opticnet Barens.
    "There is nothing to obscure the pain, but we have decided to do everything to alleviate it even a little bit. We invite the affected families and those whose glasses were destroyed following the disaster to come to the store and get new glasses at no cost."
    The store also urged more companies to join the venture, saying "Social solidarity is the order of the day." People can get more details by calling 08-9244355.
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    המתפללים בודקים את חפציהם האישיים
    המתפללים בודקים את חפציהם האישיים
    Collecting the personal effects of those caught up in the tragedy at Mount Meron
    (Photo: AFP)
    The "Tabun and Mangal" restaurant in Givat Shmuel was offering ready meals mehuderet kosher food "for free and with great love" for the families of the victims who could not prepare for Shabbat."
    The Chasdei Naomi charity based in Bnei Brak announced the creation of a special fund for the families of those killed.
    "Our support center will be bolstered these days in order to provide solutions for all the families of the victims of the disaster who were killed or injured," said association chairman Rabbi Yosef Cohen.
    "In coordination with the welfare authorities, we will provide food for those sitting shiva and all the families of those who were injured or killed."
    Cohen urged "all the people of Israel to contribute to the special emergency fund to at least guarantee economic subsistence for the families."
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    זק"א מפנים את הגופות
    זק"א מפנים את הגופות
    Zaka personnel remove the body of a victim from the site of the Mount Meron disaster
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Israel's four health funds and various health associations have also offered psychological assistance to those whose loved ones were caught up in the disaster.
    Dr. Zvi Fishel, chairman of the Psychiatric Association of the Medical Association, said that "support centers were opened [Thursday night] in Meron and Ziv Medical Center in Safed, as well as in the hometowns of those who attended the event, including Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit and Ashdod."
    The health funds are also allocating three free mental health treatments to anyone who requires it.
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