Thousands of people who traveled for hours to reach Meron were forced to wait for additional long hours in parking lots without basic amenities, such as bathrooms and water and even lighting.
Although people are used to the long hours on the road to reach Meron, in past years, organizations and individuals would offer free refreshments and other necessities at stops along the way. This year, people, including many families with small children, were forced to wait in empty parking lots despite the fact that Meron was relatively empty. Hundreds of people even gave up completely on reaching Meron and lit bonfires in the parking lots and began dancing.
“I’ve been coming to Meron for many years and I don’t remember such treatment and disorganization on the part of authorities regarding the parking lots,” one person told Kikar H’Shabbat. “I saw a woman literally in tears begging the ushers and police officers for access to a bathroom and they completely ignored her.”
“Thousands of men, women, and children are stuck in parking lots for over three hours despite the fact that the number of people at Meron hasn’t reached the maximum allowed according to regulations,” Shas MK Michoel Malkieli said on Wednesday night.
UTJ MK Meir Porush bemoaned the situation, saying he received countless complaints. “There was the same number of police officers as celebrants on the mountain.”
Those who complained said that they completely understand the need for safety rules and limitations on the number of people at the site but the way it was carried out was not only too extreme but was not well planned.
Yaakov of Beitar told Kikar that he waited with his family including his three-year-old “chalaka” boy, for three hours in the parking lot. “After three hours, we finally were allowed to continue but a few minutes later we were ordered to enter another parking lot, where we were told to wait for 20 minutes before we were allowed to get off the bus. When we arrived at the site, we mainly saw police officers. The mountain itself was almost completely empty. After I entered the tzion I heard from a friend about a tent where dancing was taking place at the entrance to Moshav Meron and this was the only place I was able to ‘feel Meron’ a bit.”
Dovid said that he also waited in a parking lot for hours, together with thousands of people on 50 buses. In fact, they waited so long that after five hours, hundreds of them lit a bonfire there and began to dance right there in the parking lot.
Naftali, who traveled almost seven hours to get to Meron and then waited for three hours in a parking lot, blamed the authorities for not preparing properly for the situation.
Naftali said that even after he arrived at Meron, the site was devoid of happiness. “Even if they decided that the courtyard of the tzion isn’t appropriate for dancing, why didn’t they allow the music to continue after the Boyaner hadlaka?”
Tzila said that although she acknowledges the fact that significant changes had to be implemented following last year’s disaster, the police and project manager went too much to the opposite extreme. “How can thousands of people be barred from entering while the site itself was empty of people? I don’t understand why they didn’t allow people to sing and dance – that wasn’t a safety issue.”
Another person told Kikar that after traveling to Meron every year for 60 years and spending 24 hours at the site, this year he stayed at the site for only a half-hour. “I couldn’t be at Meron in a situation like this. I walked around feeling nothing but sadness, without the traditional simcha and celebration that Meron is known for.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)