The tragic collapse of a stage on Mount Herzl Wednesday, which claimed the life of Second-Lieutenant Hila Bezaleli and left seven others injured, may lead to the cancelation of the annual Independence Day events planned to take place on the site.
Bezaleli was killed when a heavy, suspended lighting fixture collapsed on the stage, forcing it to cave in.
Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs officials are considering several alternative venues, including the Knesset Plaza.
A ministry source told Ynet that it is unlikely that the traditional Lighting of the Torches ceremony, which officially ushers in Independence Day, will be canceled.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin commented on the concerns and said that Independence and Memorial Day ceremonies should be held as planned.
Earlier on Thursday, Rivlin conferred with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and ministry officials in efforts to allow rehearsals on Mount Herzl to proceed according to plan.
According to Rivlin, "In spite of the grief and the great sorrow, Memorial and Independence Day services must take place as planned and on time on Mount Herzl. This is due to the symbolic importance of the mountain and its proximity to the gravestones of those who died in Israel's military campaigns."
Mt. Herzl plaza (Archives)
The Knesset speaker met with Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to discuss various venue alternatives. Among the options presented was the Knesset, but Rivlin expressed his reservations.
He claimed that "The tragedy will most certainly affect the ceremonies. We must make every effort to ensure that at the same time that the investigation is conducted and conclusions are drawn, preparations (for the ceremonies) are completed on time."
Also on Thursday, the special police taskforce investigating the incident arrested the event's producer. He is the fifth person arrested in the case.
The police said that all those detained in connection to the tragedy are suspected of criminally negligent manslaughter.
Hanna Hacohen, who oversees the ministry's ceremonies, told Ynet Thursday that a safety issue was detected during Wednesday's rehearsal and that a safety expert was immediately called. The tragedy took place while he was assessing the situation.
"According to our standard procedures, once the producer on the ground suspects a safety issue a safety expert is called to assess the situation and advise us further," she said.
The Scene (Photo: Eliad Levy)
"My producer called Design Group as well as a safety expert to get their opinion and the structure collapsed while they were inspecting the premises. We've worked with this safety expert for many years and we've never had problems before," she added.
As for why the rehearsal was not stopped immediately when a problem was detected, she said: "We follow the recommendations of the safety expert. If there was a need to stop the rehearsal he would have alerted us."
The investigation, which is held jointly by the IDF and the police, is ongoing.
The police have claimed that the three suspects arrested in the case are responsible for a "long line of failures"; but Design Group officials have pointed the finger at the organizers, over their failure to clear the premises.
The police's motion before Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to remand the suspected pending the investigation's conclusion was denied.
Yair Altman, Nir Cohen and Neri Brenner contributed to this report
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