Victims mourned in digital ceremony

More than 900 hear Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Israel Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely


A projection of an Israeli flag flying before lit candles is displayed on the old city walls of Jerusalem on May 2, 2021, as Israel declares a national day of mourning for victims of a stampede during the Lag BaOmer holiday at Mount Meron. - The deadly crush at Mount Meron in northern Israel has been described as one of the worst peacetime disasters since the nation's founding in 1948. The stampede broke out early on April 30 as tens of thousands of mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews thronged the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to commemorate the second-century Talmudic sage's death and mark Lag BaOmer holidays. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

The 45 victims of the Meron tragedy were mourned in a digital service in the UK on Sunday evening addressed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Israel Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely.

The men and boys who died in the crush at a Lag Ba’Omer gathering in the early hours of Friday morning included Moshe Bergman, a 24-year-old student from Manchester at the prestigious Mir Yeshivah in Israel.

More than 900 people tuned in to the service as Israel’s national day of mourning neared its end.

Mrs Hotovely said, “I finally got to feel how strong we are as a community”.

Lag Ba’Omer was a day that symbolised achdut Yisrael, Jewish unity, she said.

“The moment we are sharing together this evening by praying together shows and means a lot to the people of Israel.”

She said she was “delivering this message to my brothers and sisters in Israel that are so impressed from this strong Jewish community that cares, this Jewish community that has lost one of its sons in this tragedy, Moshe Bergman from Manchester.”

The disaster took place during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of the mystical sage, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, on Mount Meron, on the anniversary of his death.

Traditionally, the festival of Lag Ba’Omer recalls the day when a plague that ravaged the students of Rabbi Akiva ended and marks an interlude in the semi-mourning period of the Omer.

“What happened on Lag Ba’Omer on Har Meron was the opposite of what should have happened,” the Chief Rabbi said.

When Lag Ba’Omer has been transformed into a day of death, “we cannot even try to attempt an explanation.

“But there is something we can do. We can be together – and that is something that the Jewish people is wonderful at doing.”

The Hebrew word for hand, yad, has the numerical value of 14, representing th 14 joints in the hand. When two hands hold or shake together, that represents 28 – which is the numerical of the word, yedid, for friendship: and 28 is also the value of the word for strength, koach, he explained.

“The greatest source of strength for our people is togetherness. It’s when we stand together hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, and that’s the spirit running  right through the Jewish nation at this time.”

The memorial prayer and the prayer for recovery of the injured were recited by Rabbi Nicky Liss, chairman of the rabbinical council of the United Synagogue, which organised the service.

Rabbi Arnold Saunders, from Manchester, a friend of Mr Bergman's family, told the Manchester Evening News  he was a “dedicated husband for the last 18 months, a wonderful son, brother and a caring and compassionate young man”.

The family, he said, had "accepted that this was a tragic accident and as people of faith accept the will of God. They don’t want to engage in a blame game.”



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