Many Dead in Stampede at Israel Religious Celebration

A stampede at a religious celebration that drew tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to a mountain in northern Israel late Thursday left at least 15 people dead and dozens injured, according to local news reports.

“A terrible disaster” declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as conflicting reports trickled in from Mount Meron.

By some estimates, about 100,000 people were crammed together near midnight to celebrate the feast of Lag b’Omer, when ultra-Orthodox Jews traditionally convene at the tomb of a prominent rabbi from antiquity on Mount Meron. The festivities include dancing and bonfires.

According to early reports, the stampede was set off by a collapsing grandstand, though rescue workers later attributed it to the sheer volume people.

A video said to have been taken right before the stampede showed a mass of people in ecstatic celebration, moving almost as one to the music.

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