Teenager among Americans murdered in love


JERUSALEM – A New Jersey teenager was one of the Americans who died Friday rush at a religious festival Israel, the office of the country’s chief rabbi, David Lau, confirmed Sunday.

Donny Morris, 19, was named by the office as one of 45 people who died in the crush, along with 26-year-old Eliezer Zvi Yuzef and 22-year-old Menachem Knoblowitz, both from New York. Yousef Amran Tauber and Yousef Kahn were also killed. Their age and home state were not released.

Jonathan Shrier, US Chargé d’Affaires in Israel confirmed on Twitter that 6 civilians and 2 legal permanent residents were among the dead.

Morris had done studies in Israel, his uncle Rabbi Yechiel Morris told several Media outlets Saturday, when he confirmed his cousin’s death.

As Israel observed a day of mourning Sunday, flags across the country were lowered to half-staff to honor the dead in what was one of the country’s worst civilian disasters.

In keeping with Jewish tradition, funerals were held with as little delay as possible. More than 20 of the victims were buried overnight after official identification was completed.

The deadly rush took place during the celebration of Lag BaOmer on Mount Meron in northern Israel, at the tomb of an ancient Jewish mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Tens of thousands of people every year – usually ultra-Orthodox Jews – throng the area to celebrate the rabbi and light bonfires as part of the celebrations. The event was the first religious mass rally to be legally held since almost all restrictions regarding the Israeli corona pandemic.

It’s unclear what triggered the stampede, but video footage showed people being pulled back and forth by the sheer momentum of the densely packed crowd. Other footage from the event showed a crowd of people, mostly men dressed in black, streaming through a narrow passage into the open.

Questions have been raised as to whether the government and police were hesitant to limit the crowd at the site so as not to anger influential ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians.

The Justice Department said investigators would investigate police misconduct.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has called the incident “one of the worst disasters in the State of Israel,” has also promised an investigation.

Netanyahu visited Rambam Hospital in Haifa on Sunday and commended the staff for saving lives.

“One of the parents told me the sentence that sums it up: ‘Here it is revealed that the people of Israel have one heart,’” Netanyahu said in a statement after the visit. “Our hearts are with the injured and we all hope and pray for their full recovery.”

About 1,400 miles away, in the Vatican, Pope Francis said in his speech in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that he would remember the victims and their families in prayer.

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“It is with great sadness that I express my close relationship with the people of Israel for the incident on Mount Meron last Friday that caused the deaths of 45 people and numerous injuries,” said Francis.

President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Friday and offered US assistance.

“The loss of life among believers who exercise their faith is heartbreaking,” Biden said in a statement.

Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem and Yuliya Talmazan from London.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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