Two people were killed and over 167 injured, including five seriously, as a bleacher collapsed during a large gathering in a Givat Ze’ev synagogue during Shavuot holiday celebrations on Sunday evening.
A video showed the Karlin synagogue in the West Bank settlement, just north of Jerusalem, packed with people as a bleacher suddenly collapsed.
The wounded were taken to hospitals in Jerusalem. Medics and firefighters confirmed there were no people trapped beneath the bleacher after searching the area.
Magen David Adom said medics treated five people who were seriously injured, along with ten people in moderate condition and 152 who suffered light injuries.
Medics confirmed the deaths of a 40-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy. They were not immediately identified.
Some large ultra-Orthodox events feature bleachers, known as “tribunas” in Israel, which are packed with standing or dancing parishioners surrounding a central table where community leaders are seated.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his heart goes out to the victims. “IDF forces led by the Home Front Command and the Air Force are working to assist in the evacuation. I pray for the safety of the wounded,” he said.
The synagogue is located in an incomplete building and had not been approved yet for use, the police commander of the Jerusalem District told reporters.
In documents published by the Kan public broadcaster, both the police and the Givat Ze’ev regional council tried to get each other to enforce an order banning Shavuot services at the unfinished Karlin synagogue.
Papers showed police warning the local council about the danger of allowing services at the building, which was not finished and did not have an occupancy permit. However, when the local council asked police to step in to enforce the closure, police responded that it is the council’s job.
A spokesperson for the police told Channel 13 News that the force plans to investigate the deadly collapse.
The incident came 16 days after the Meron disaster, in which 45 people were crushed to death during a mass gathering to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday at Mount Meron.
The Meron tragedy — Israel’s deadliest civilian peacetime disaster — occurred as thousands streamed through a narrow walkway at the southern exit of the Toldot Aharon compound on the mountain that was covered with metal flooring and may have been wet, causing some people to fall underfoot during the rush for the exit. Some apparently fell on the walkway and down a flight of stairs at its end, toppling onto those below and precipitating a fatal crushing domino effect.
Since the disaster, several former police chiefs have characterized Meron — Israel’s second-most visited Jewish holy site after the Western Wall — as a kind of extraterritorial facility. It was administered by several ultra-Orthodox groups, while the National Center for the Protection of Holy Places, part of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, apparently had some responsibility over it as well, as did the local authority, and the police. But ultimately, no single state body had full responsibility.