Israel’s Response to the Mount Meron Tragedy Shows Its National Spirit

On Thursday night, a stampede left 45 people dead and many more injured at Mount Meron in the Galilee. They were among some 90,000 mostly ḥaredi pilgrims who gathered at the burial place of the 2nd-century sage Shimon bar Yoḥai for a traditional celebration of Lag ba-Omer. For several years, public-safety experts, government officials, and others have warned that the pilgrimages are dangerously overcrowded, and called for better regulation. Herb Keinon notes that there is much blame to go around, but finds in Israel’s response an inspiring patriotism:

After the initial shock of the scope of the tragedy seeped in, the concern of some when they heard the news was that in today’s Israel—a country where the divisions between the ḥaredi and non-ḥaredi communities have rarely been greater—this would be viewed as a sectoral tragedy, a ḥaredi tragedy, not a national one.

But that didn’t happen. The country, as it knows how to do in times of tragedy, rallied together. Flags were flown at half-mast for the victims, one or two of whom may not even have recognized the authority of the nation standing behind that flag. A day of national mourning was declared. Somber music was played on the radio. The voice of a seasoned radio presenter, . . . Esti Perez, cracked when she read the names, ages, and places of residence of the victims.

These deaths were not mourned only by the ḥaredi “tribe,” but by the whole nation. People from each of Israel’s “tribes” went out and donated blood, and people from each of Israel’s “tribes” shed tears when they heard the heartbreaking stories and saw the gut-wrenching images. Despite the super-charged and even hateful rhetoric of recent months, despite the deep divisions highlighted by the coronavirus, mystic bonds of brotherhood still bind people here—something that provides badly needed solace at trying times such as these.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Haredim, Israeli society, Lag ba'Omer

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship