New world news from Time: More Than 100 Injured in Stampede at Israeli Religious Festival



(JERUSALEM) — More than 100 people were injured, dozens critically, in a stampede at a Jewish religious gathering in northern Israel attended by tens of thousands of people, Israel’s main rescue service said early Friday.

Magen David Adom tweeted that it was treating 103 people, including 38 in critical condition. Israeli media had earlier reported that a grandstand collapsed, but the rescue service said all the injuries happened in a stampede.

Israeli media reported that up to 38 people were killed, but the rescue service did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation. The Ynet news website was among those reporting the figure, and published a photo appearing to show several bodies.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched medics and search and rescue teams along with helicopters to assist with a “mass casualty incident” in the area. It did not provide details on the nature of the disaster.

The incident happened late at night and there were conflicting reports. Videos circulating on social media showed large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed together in tight spaces.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, had gathered at the foot of Mount Meron to celebrate Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday honoring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who is buried there.

It was the first huge religious gathering of its kind to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The country has seen cases plummet since launching one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.

Health authorities had nevertheless warned against holding such a large gathering.

But when the celebrations started, the Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, police chief Yaakov Shabtai and other top officials visited the event and met with police, who had deployed 5,000 extra forces to maintain order.

Ohana, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked police for their hard work and dedication “for protecting the well-being and security for the many participants” as he wished the country a happy holiday.

Netanyahu is struggling to form a governing coalition ahead of a Tuesday deadline, and the national tragedy is sure to complicate those efforts.