Among the countless families who lost loved ones at the Lag BaOmer festivities on Mount Meron were also two families who had to bid a final farewell to two sons each in the disaster that left 45 people dead and 150 injured.
Both families, Engelrad and Elhadad, hail from Jerusalem. The Engelrads had to bury brothers Yehoshua (12) and Nathan (14), and the Elhadads had to bury brothers Moshe Mordechai (12) and Yosef David (18).
All four boys were crushed to death in the stampede that broke out Thursday night at the religious festival of Lag BaOmer at the gravesite of Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in an area belonging to the ultra-Orthodox insular Hasidic movement Toldos Aharon.
A relative of the Engelrad brothers described the unceasing search after the two brothers, who attended the event with their father and older brother and only wanted to get as close as possible to the center of the festivities.
"They went into the crowd and decided they wanted to freshen up because of the crowdedness — that's how they found themselves in the eye of the storm," said the relative. "In the end, police did not let them pass through even when they begged for their lives — then the disaster happened. Their 16-year-old brother miraculously survived, but the two little ones did not."
According to the Engelrads' relative, the father began running amok in the midst of the commotion in search of his sons.
"The father was waiting for them when the mess started and we began searching for the two little ones but we couldn't find them. The father ran from parking lot to parking lot… We contacted every hospital, but the boys did not appear on any of their lists. That’s when we began to realize that the worst had happened,” said the relative. “In the morning… I went alone to Abu Kabir [Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv] to support their father when he arrived. I realized it was a double funeral.”
According to the Engelrad family, the father had to identify the bodies of his sons twice due to an identification error.
"They sent the father back and forth during his most difficult time, he fell apart," said the relative, who added that the mother was notified of her sons’ fate soon after.
"She was completely devastated. We buried the two children in Jerusalem at a 20-minute funeral because of the Sabbath,” added the relative.
The Health Ministry, who is in charge of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, said in response that "the disaster in Meron is the largest civilian disaster in the history of the institute and requires special and complex preparations by the institute's staff in order to complete the identification process as quickly and reliably as possible.”
“At the same time, the stages of professional identification have to be carried out carefully. In the case of the deceased, Moshe and Yehoshua Engelrad, the identification was carried out separately at the request of the police. The institute's staff wish to express their condolences to the family.”
The Elhadad family also buried two sons after the disaster at Mount Meron — Moshe Mordechai and Yosef David — both of which were laid to rest at Mount Meron near the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
"We went up the mountain to partake in the celebrations. We went out because one of my sons told me he couldn’t bear the crowd,” recalled the two's father. “Yosef, however, chose to go back and I allowed him. I didn’t notice [Moshe] was right behind him. Ten minutes later, the Lord took them to be with him.”