Meron on Lag BaOmer: Political condemnation of police violence

Meron, Wikipedia. Itay Peretz

The Rashbi celebration in Meron, the main event in the Lag BaOmer celebration and what constitutes the largest public event in Israel (more than half a million participants regularly), has known challenging years recently: Covid in 2020, the deadly ‘Meron disaster’ in 2021, and political confrontations before the events of 2022 and 2023. The year 2024 is, of course, in the shadow of war – when Mount Meron is a target for the Hezbollah terrorist organization (and in particular the air control base at the top of the mountain), which has fired hundreds of rockets and missiles at it since the outbreak of the war; Accordingly, it was decided that this year there will be no public celebration, due to the inability to provide a protected space for all those present, and the fear of another stampede after a siren is heard. Mount Meron was declared a military zone and closed by the police, and the public was asked not to appear.

Nevertheless, there were naturally several hundred and thousands of celebraters stubbornly trying to reach the enclosed mountain. Many of them broke through police checkpoints and entered the mountain, but things didn’t go too far due to the lack of an organized bonfire lighting. However, during the arrest and evacuation of the intruders by the police, videos were posted on social media in which Border Police officers stationed in Meron were viewed being overly violent toward the intruders, including blows, thrusts to the ground and shooting in the air. This is, of course, a blatant violation of the power-use procedures.

The events were strongly condemned from all corners of the political spectrum. “This record is unbearable. A crime that will not be forgiven. The Police must announce today that it is immediately removing the Border Police officer from his position and bringing him to justice,” wrote Minister Aryeh Deri – and indeed, Minister of Public Security Itamar Ben Gvir responded that “I strongly condemn cases of police violence against civilians,” and Police Commissioner Kobe Shabtai ordered an investigation against the police officers documented. “The Israeli police have been operating for 24/7 long years to maintain personal and public security in times of war, and we all strengthen them, but maintaining public order must not become law-sponsored violence,” Gantz summed it up.

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