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A household copes one 12 months after the Mount Meron catastrophe – The Forward


Seeing luggage of marshmallows within the grocery store stopped Michal Reit in her tracks.

“That’s when it hit me: It will be a whole year,” mentioned the American-born Israeli mom of six. 

Like Reit, observant Jews throughout Israel sometimes rejoice Lag B’Omer, which begins on Wednesday night, by constructing bonfires, roasting marshmallows and potatoes and making pilgrimages to Mount Meron. It’s the burial website within the Galilee of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, an historical sage, and the place that, a 12 months in the past on the vacation, her son was one in all tons of trampled in a stampede that killed 45 males and boys.

It was essentially the most lethal civil catastrophe within the historical past of the State of Israel. Greater than 150 others have been injured that night time, a number of critically, together with the Reits’ son Yossi, now 16, who stays solely minimally aware in a Jerusalem pediatric hospital.

Two pals with whom Yossi went to Meron have been injured and recovered. Yossi was airlifted to Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, the place he spent two months in intensive care. The Reits realized what occurred when a paramedic known as after discovering their quantity in Yossi’s cellphone.

In preparation for Yossi’s discharge and return dwelling subsequent month, Michal and her husband Yechiel are renovating their basement for his new bed room and putting in an elevator so he could be a part of household life upstairs.

The basement contains one other bed room and a kitchenette for the full-time caregiver Yossi requires, they mentioned.

God’s will

The Reit dad and mom, Brooklyn natives who moved to Israel in 2005, don’t assign blame for his or her son’s situation, although many have mentioned correct precautions might have prevented the catastrophe. However the Reits settle for what occurred that night time as God’s will.

“We’re not looking to fault people. God rules the world. Obviously, this was a gezeira on us and on Yossi,” Michal Reit mentioned, utilizing the Hebrew phrase for decree. “It helps me to say that there’s a reason this happened to us and Yossi. We might not understand it.” 

Yes, there is pain. A lot. There is sadness. There is wishing it was all a bad dream. And of course there is davening [praying] and pleading to change things,” she wrote in an electronic mail to pals and family shortly after Yossi was injured. “But there is no anger, there is no questioning and there CERTAINLY is no demanding to know whose fault it is or expecting someone to be punished for what happened.” 

The message went on: “Thinking this way is as easy for us as not eating a cheeseburger.”

Incapacity funds will cowl practically the entire caregiver’s wage. The Reits mentioned they might recognize the federal government reimbursing among the renovation prices however aren’t relying on it. Yossi additionally would require a hospital mattress at dwelling and a tool to carry him upright for hours at a time to forestall pneumonia and the lack of bone density. 

The Knesset this week accepted funds of 500,000 shekels, the equal of $144,000, to every of the 45 deceased victims’ households. No such funds will go to these injured.

Too many on the mountain

Within the tragedy’s aftermath, critics accused police and occasion organizers of lax crowd management and overlooking harmful situations.

New security measures instituted at Meron this Lag B’Omer embody limiting attendance to 16,000 folks at a time, with a most keep of 4 hours per individual beneath an honor system.

A state fee of inquiry, led by the Supreme Courtroom’s former president, Miriam Naor — who died in January — issued interim findings in November calling for eradicating security hazards, lowering congestion and prohibiting ad-hoc encampments on the mountain that encroach on the general public’s entry.

In typical years, tons of of 1000’s of individuals go to Mount Meron on Lag B’Omer, which was closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Final 12 months, additionally due to the pandemic, the numbers have been smaller, with estimates ranging between 50,000 and 100,000.

“The number of people wishing to arrive [there] is much larger than the number of participants that the mountain can safely contain at the same time,” the fee concluded.

‘A wonderful boy’

The new precautions come too late for Yossi. His dad and mom are sober about his future however grateful he’s alive and, after being on a ventilator and present process a tracheostomy, breathes on his personal. Upon reaching Rambam Hospital two hours after getting the paramedic’s name, they have been struck by the shoeprint marks on Yossi’s proper forearm and features throughout his face from being trampled.

“Yossi looked terrible,” mentioned Yechiel Reit. He hadn’t needed to enter the hospital room. A social employee urged him to enter. If Yossi handed away, she advised him, “you’ll regret it.”

Michal went in, too. She observed his naked head, involved that he may die not carrying his kippah. She considered his taking part in music too loudly, being cussed and never all the time serving to round the home — “Yossi was — is — a wonderful boy, but he’s a teenager,” she mentioned.

She additionally recalled his goodness: the time he obtained upset when a primary grade classmate was picked on, and the way he posted footage of rabbinic leaders on his bed room wall to inspire him to get shifting within the morning.

That first night time within the hospital, she recited Psalm 121 — “I will lift my eyes to the mountain. From where will my help come?” — and held Yossi’s hand.

“I told him I’m sorry,” she recalled.

She thought of the Meron victims’ family members who didn’t have that second, who went to the nationwide forensic institute to determine their our bodies. “I was grateful. At least I got to be with him. We were so fortunate compared to those families who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” she mentioned. 

Yechiel, an emergency medication doctor, thought of his son’s analysis of anoxic mind harm, attributable to going into cardiac arrest at Meron. Yossi was starved of oxygen. “He was not expected to survive. It was very touch-and-go. The numbers were not compatible with life. His ICP, intracranial pressure, was higher than his MAP, mean arterial pressure,” Yechiel mentioned. 

He pivoted to the current. 

“We don’t know his prognosis. Statistically, it doesn’t look good,” Yechiel mentioned. “We’re hopeful. We daven. We hope that God will be kind to us, have mercy on us.”

Author/editor Hillel Kuttler could be reached at hk@HillelTheScribeCommunications.com.



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