The accident happened as tens of thousands of Jews, mostly ultra-Orthodox, attended an annual event for a religious scholar.
Dozens of people were killed in a stampede at a Jewish pilgrimage site in northern Israel, rescue services said.
Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service, said at least 38 people were killed in the event on Friday evening, adding that “MDA is fighting for the lives of dozens of injured and will not give up so much. that the last victim will not be evacuated ”.
On social media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “grave disaster” and added: “We all pray for the well-being of the injured.”
The stampede came as tens of thousands of Jews, mostly ultra-Orthodox, took part in an annual pilgrimage for the feast of Lag BaOmer, in Meron, around the famous grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a Talmudic sage from the second century.
A video posted to social media by Israel’s public radio station Kan showed a crowd of crowded pilgrims walking down a narrow alley.
– News here (@kann_news) April 30, 2021
Yehuda Gottleib, one of United Hatzalah’s first responders, said he saw “dozens of people fall on top of each other during the collapse.”
“A lot of them were run over and passed out.”
The emergency services deployed six helicopters to evacuate the injured.
Israeli media published an image of a row of bodies covered in plastic bags on the ground.
Authorities had allowed 10,000 people to gather at the grave site, but organizers said more than 650 buses had been chartered across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.
About 5,000 police officers had been deployed to secure the event, the largest public gathering in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ecstatic crowds have gathered despite warnings from health officials to avoid posing risks of COVID-19.
Witnesses said they realized people were suffocated or trampled on when an organizer used a loudspeaker to disperse the crowd.
“We thought maybe there was a (bomb) scare on a suspicious package. No one imagined that could happen here. Joy has become mourning, a great light has become deep darkness, ”said a pilgrim who named Yitzhak after Channel 12.
“Rabbi Shimon used to say that he could absolve the world… If he couldn’t rescind this edict on the very day of his exaltation, then we have to do some real soul-searching.
Lazar Hyman of the United Hatzalah Volunteer Rescue Service, who was at the scene, told AFP news agency: “This is one of the worst tragedies I have ever experienced.”
“I haven’t seen anything like it since I entered the field of emergency medicine,” he added.