The Stolin Bleacher Tragedy, the Meron Tragedy and What We Should Do..

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by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

We, in the Torah community, have had a series of tragedies of late that are truly heart-wrenching.  Rachmana litzlan 45 korbanos in Meron with many injured. 2 korbanos in Stolin, with many injured.

And while it is true that there has been a remarkable outpouring of noseh b’ol chaveiro, sympathy, and empathy – there is one that that we have not been doing.

[WHAT FOLLOWS AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE IS A POSSIBLE SOLUTION – that all of us can do.]

WE NEED TO BE BETTER PREPARED

We have to follow the words of the Gemorah in Tamid (32a), “Aizehu chochom? HaRo’eh es haNolad – Who is a wise person? One who anticipates what can come.”

We have Hatzolah organizations. We have Zaka organizations. We have Gamachs. We have almost every conceivable chesed organization – from bris gemachs, shalom zachar schnapps gemachs, we also need one more thing.

We need to take charge of our own safety as well.  We need to hire crowd control experts for our levayos, for Meron, for our buildings, for our wedding halls.

The Midrash tells us in Aicha Rabba (2:13), “im yomar lecha adam: Chochma baGoyim – Taamin – if a person says to you that the gentile secular world has wisdom – believe it.”

There are experts who know what types of tweaks are needed in order to save human life. There are people, educated people with Phd degrees, that can survey and inspect any venue or building and can determine its safety and structural integrity in order to save lives and to avoid tragedies.

What we need to do is have the Chareidi world engage these experts. We should hire them and bring them down to our buildings and levaya venues, to our chasuna venues, to our shuls, and to wherever else we gather.  We need to bring them to Meron for recommendations. It shouldn’t be the Israeli government or the police or the IDF, it should be us.

If we were to do this, it would be a source of enormous Kiddush Shaim Shamayim – because it shows the truth that the Torah lifestyle values life above all. We should be the ones to have these experts issue the report showing and demonstrating how most crowding and stampeding disasters can be prevented by implementing simple crowd management strategies and reports about structural integrity.

  • We should be the ones showing the world that there people should be assessing the nature of the spaces being used – and how their exact people-handling capabilities are.
  • We should be the ones hiring the experts who tell us if the entrances and exits are adequate.
  • We should be the ones implementing ticket collection – because tickets actually save lives.
  • We and the experts we hire should be asking the questions: How best should barriers be employed?

The truth of the matter is that the police and the civil authorities often do not have a clue in these matters. Let’s look around and see that criminals that have been incapacitated and are dangerously ill are often left to lay around before medical experts even arrive.

WHY AREN’T WE DOING WHAT WE USUALLY DO?

The Chareidi population are usually the ones to run to the very best doctors and treatments – why are we not doing it here?

SIMCHA HALLS TOO

The structures of many of our shuls, other venues, and simcha halls are also somewhat questionable. How many times have we been at a chasuna where we have actually felt the floor go up and down? Didn’t this happen a few years ago in Yerushalayim? Why aren’t we the first ones to ensure that a chasunah hall is structurally sound?

We have to realize that staffing matters – and training as well. Won’t people listen to fellow frum people, unzerer, trained for these things more so than those where there is an unfortunate mutual antagonism? Every chassidus, every kehillah in klal yisroel should have someone appointed to oversee it – Just like we have hechsherim – we should have this.

COMMUNICATIONS

There should also be communication between those who attend and the trained staff. There should also be some sort of constant monitoring of the event and what is going on in the crowd. There should be a command center – an awareness of pressure points, the nature of the floor – and if need be special draining or rubber matting. There should be triple language instructions given out.

Some people may say that this is an overreaction. But is it? If it can safe just one life – it is worth it. Look at all the pain, the devastation.

SIX STEPS

There are six steps that can be implemented to resolve the situation. We should do the following:

1] We should identify the experts, world class professionals in the field.

2] We should fly them out to Meron and to the levaya venues and shuls, and then eventually to the chasunah halls.

3] We should get the funds together and hire the experts. It should be a mass group effort of Torah yidden who are showing concern.

4] The report should be written up and gone over again and again – the same way we go over a chaburah or a sefer – looking at it form every angle (or a business plan)

5] We should present this plan to each of the venues in which there may be a danger.

6] We should also export the information we obtain to other countries and people so that we can be an or la’amim – and show them that we, a Torah nation, believe that life is precious.

THE SOLUTION

We need a Daf Yomi Program here.  We need a program where we have the necessary reports and information, and each frum Kehillah is on board.  If we ignore it, r”l, it will happen again and again, challilah.

One of the top world experts in crowd control is someone named Dr. Keith Still.  He is the one who does the crowd control at the Olympic events, and at various large gatherings of Hindu and Muslim events.  He has students all over the world – including in Eretz Yisroel.

We should hire him as a consultant for the Torah Kehillos in Eretz Yisroel.  If we, Klal Yisroel joins together in this effort, not only can we fly him in and pay for the necessary reports – but we can show that lives matter and that preventative efforts make a difference. We can change the dynamic that issues of safety – do matter.   A group of individuals have reached out to Professor Stills.  HE IS WILLING TO COME TO ERETZ YISROEL AND CAN HELP PUSH THESE IDEAS.

Below is a link to donate to this effort. At the same time, your email will be collected and those in charge can see that Klal Yisroel cares about safety.  It does not matter how much you donate -even if it is $2.  After the link is a youtube video about his credentials and what he does.

https://thechesedfund.com/zechornilah/makingmeronsafeforklalyisroel

The video link is found below.

https://youtu.be/XwISI8E0Csk

THE FIVE MITZVOS INVOLVED

‘Lo Saamod al dam rayacha. Do not stand idly by your brother’s blood.’ There is a negative mitzvah of not standing idly by your brother’s blood (Vayikra 19:16). This is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426:1) and in the Rambam. If people get trampled upon and rachmana litzlan die because of our inaction, we are violating the commandment of “Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa.” Didn’t we learn this when people were niftar at our levayos in the past few years?
Hashavas Aveidah. The mitzvah is not just for lost items. The verse in Parashas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 22:2) discusses the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object, with the words, “V’hasheivoso lo,” “and you shall return it to him.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin (73a), however, includes within its understanding of these words the obligation of returning “his own life to him as well.” For example, if thieves are threatening to pounce upon him, there is an obligation of “V’hasheivoso lo.” This verse is the source for the mitzvah of saving someone’s life. It is highly probable that it is to this general mitzvah that the Shulchan Aruch refers in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 325.
‘Lo Suchal L’hisalem.’ There is yet another negative commandment associated with the positive commandment of hashavas aveidah, and that is the verse in Devarim (22:3), “You cannot shut your eyes to it.” This verse comes directly after the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah. The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, in his HeEmek She’eilah, refers to this mitzvah as well.
‘V’chai Achicha Imach.’ Rav Achai Gaon in his She’iltos (She’ilta #37), based upon the Gemara in Bava Metzia 62a, understands the words in Vayikra (25:36), “v’chai achicha imach,” “and your brother shall live with you,” to indicate an obligation to save others with you. The Netziv in his HeEmek She’eilah understands it as a full-fledged obligation according to all opinions. He writes that one must exert every effort to save his friend’s life, until it becomes a matter of pikuach nefesh for himself. The Netziv’s position would certainly advocate flying in the expert.
V’ahavta L’rei’acha Kamocha.’ The Ramban, in Toras HaAdam Sha’ar HaSakanah (pp. 42–43), understands the verse of “And love thy neighbor as yourself” as a directive to save our peers from medical danger as well.
We thus have a total of five Torah mitzvos involved in flying in such an expert. If anyone out there has a connection to the organizers and planners – please reach out. This author believes he has identified the perfect person to fly out for this and has reached out to him.

May we only have yeshuos and nechamos from now on in regard to these matters. True, it is almost Yom Tov, and we are likely to forget about this by the time Yom Tov is over. But if we can save one neshama – we have saved a world.

 

https://thechesedfund.com/zechornilah/makingmeronsafeforklalyisroel

The video link is found below.

https://youtu.be/XwISI8E0Csk

The author can be reached at [email protected]


16 COMMENTS

  1. you dont need to hire anyone, you need to hold people accountable, they were warned not to use this building. this is what happens when you have no law and order . period, when we honour people who we shouldnt and so forth

  2. We also need to listen to the authorities when it comes to fire code and building safety. Don’t hide apartments where they tell you not to. Codes exist for a reason. And no, its not because all the town zoning boards are anti semites.

  3. I am not arguing with what was said, but i can say that i heard the Karliner Rebbe himself, of all people, expressing exactly the same sentiments after the Meron tragedy. I heard him saying that besides תשובה ומעשים טובים, we have to work hard of ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם and that in Meron etc. safety measures should be implemented. As is well known, the Karliner Rebbe was at the forefront of the efforts made to battle Covid-19, and his kehilla were the last wearing masks, until last week!!!
    I am sure that he make every effort to ensure all safety measures were taken seriously when they built the new beis hamedrash and tisch room.
    In fact, on Shovuos night i heard someone suggesting that Hashem is showing from the Karlin incident, that even if we keep all the rules, ultimately we are 100% in His Hands, and totally dependent on Him.
    [That does not absolve us of doing the השתדלות we are חייב to do to stay safe.]

  4. Thank you for addressing this major issue. As others have said, a big part of the problems is that certain groups in Israel don’t see themselves as beholden to the government. They act and are often tolerated as an autonomous entity within Israeli society. Simply the rules are not for them. The Gedolim tell them what to do and not anyone else. In NYC the FDNY can shut down a venue for safety concerns. People would be disappointed but I don’t think they would riot. Here in Israel the authorities would be spat upon and called Nazis. Your solution if embraced would go far to save lives but it ignores the much bigger sociological issue.
    Citizenship in Israel comes with responsibility to follow the rules. For those who don’t want to live under an apikores structure… they are free to join their brothers and sisters in any other country. For those that remain its time to realize that autonomy has risks and consequences.

  5. arib: Since not the building collapsed but the bleachers (parentches) it had nothing to do with using the building illegally. Even if the bleachers would have been outdoors the same thing could have happened.

    Lack of sensitivity for safety is a general problem in the heimishe community. You can see it on the road with the many cyclists without a helmet, no lights and all black cloth in the dark. And more recently children on electric scooters in the middle of the road with no idea of traffic safety.
    And young children taking little toddlers to school etc. etc.
    I always wonder, what are the parents thinking?!

  6. HE IS WILLING TO COME TO ERETZ YISROEL AND CAN HELP PUSH THESE IDEAS. But Israeli government shan’t budge & shan’t let him in, because they more more obsessed with Corona, than all other dangers combined.

  7. video out there showing large extension to bleachers that collapsed was cobbled together with undersized steel, no welds, sockets, clamps or bolts, runners and cross braces (wooden0 strung together with twisted steel wire. Two deaths is a nes nigla. A Chazon Ish succah essentially, and a level of incompetence and/or carelessness that rises to level of criminality

  8. Davidthekanoi it certainly would have happened outdoors too! Did you see how some of the bleachers were put together? With cable ties! I don’t know who was responsible for that, but whoever did it is a rotzeach!

  9. the tragedy is huge and the big question is what have we done to lose the shemira elyonah? bleachers are put up in 100’s of kehilos each week , in the past 40 years nothing NOTHING like this has happened yes here and there a kid climbed & fell but death ? critical ? never
    big investigations only tell you what you know already , stolin is the most safety conscious chssidus & rebbe

    i know bleachers..what seemed to have happened here after a little analysis from the pics is there is the front section ( about 7 rows high) which are heavy 2″ steel bleachers which are solid . the back section must’ve been added to accommodate the big olam on erev yomtov and those were chumash seuda bleachers 1″ squares and jimmied together with wood & cable ties . as bleachers go higher they are beginning on sq frames not the ground so if it sways even a bit the weight collapses
    we need shemira elyona hamakon yerachem veyenachem

  10. did u watch the video , now save $ 25000- what would he say about miron as far as capacity maybe 8000-10,000
    so do we need a professor as he says we need solutions we could do better & we must & we will

  11. Meir G – you’ve got it wrong. Rabbi Hoffman’s point of hiring an expert consultant to investigate and recommend clear security standards is not to determine what went wrong. As you wrote – it’s obviously that we need a solution. What Rabbi Hoffman is suggesting is that an expert will recommend safety standards for mass gatherings (levayos, events with bleachers, weddings, Meron, etc.) that our tzibbur will willingly adopt because WE VALUE HUMAN LIFE and are commanded to take safety precautions. He is suggesting that WE take the initiative to investigate and present the authorities (police, local authorities, the Standards Institute of Israel (Machon Ha’tkanim) with these professional recommendations made by a world renown expert and follow them whether or not they are officially adopted by the above official bodies. It’s not enough to wag fingers as many posters but rather to face the fact that we are not speaking of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other “acts of G-d” and then do whatever is within our control to ensure safety. In short – to fulfill our basic Torah obligation as mitzvah-observant Jews.
    Please don’t be cynical. Jews have been known to be inspired to do great things. Bear in mind that Hashem does not send messages that He knows is beyond our people’s ability to comprehend. Besides for the clear safety message, there’s also the ‘bein adam le’chaveiro” message. Posters, don’t focus only on safety and fall short on ‘bein adam le’chaveiro. Let’s pause and get the messages!