Middle East/North Africa Area Presidency issues statement following deadly stampede in Israel

FILE - In this Sunday, May 2, 2021 file photo, people gather around candles during a vigil in memory of the 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews killed in a stampede at a Lag BaOmer festival at Mount Meron in northern Israel on Friday, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel's government watchdog agency said Monday that it will launch an investigation into the deadly stampede at the religious festival over the weekend. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File) Credit: Oded Balilty, Associated Press

The Middle East/Africa North Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement of sympathy following a deadly stampede at an Israeli religious celebration on Friday, April 30.

“We are truly saddened to learn of the tragedy at the Lag b’Omer celebration on Mount Meron,” wrote the area presidency, which includes Elder Anthony D. Perkins, a General Authority Seventy serving as area president, and his counselors, Elder Randy D. Funk and Elder Jeffrey H. Singer.  

“We offer our faith and prayers for the families of the deceased, those injured and all involved. We are mindful of Israel’s mourning at this time and extend our sympathy to our Jewish friends throughout the world.”

Some 100,000 people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gathered for a Lag b’Omer festival at Mount Meron in northern Israel, according to the Associated Press. The Jewish holiday Lag b’Omer honors a prominent 2nd-century rabbi, who is believed to be buried at Mount Meron. The celebration traditionally includes bonfires, dancing and large festive meals. 

Around 1 a.m. Friday, thousands of people leaving one area of Mount Meron reportedly funneled through a narrow passageway. A slick slope likely caused people to slip and fall, resulting in a human avalanche that left 45 people dead and injured at least 150. 

The stampede was one of the worst civilian disasters in Israeli history, the New York Times reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a “terrible disaster.”

“In these moments our people unite and that is what we are doing at this moment as well,” said Netanyahu, after briefly visiting Mount Meron Friday midday.

Israel’s governmental watchdog agency said Monday, May 3, it would launch an investigation into the deadly stampede, according to the Associated Press.

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