By Andrew Lapin
Israeli paramedics said that at least two worshipers had been killed and at least 213 were injured in a bleacher collapse incident at a synagogue in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev on Sunday.
The prayer gathering was held to mark the beginning of the Shavuot holiday. “Hundreds” of haredi Orthodox Jews were congregated at the synagogue in the Israeli settlement northwest of Jerusalem, which was still under construction, a Magen David Adom spokesperson told Israeli media. The two dead were reported as a 12-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man; the incident was deemed a “mass casualty event.”
A video from the synagogue, later broadcast on Israeli TV, shows the crowded bleachers collapsing and dozens of attendees falling to the ground. The building was still under construction, with visible exposed concrete and plastic sheeting used as windows, according to accounts of TV footage.
Israeli authorities, including the mayor of Givat Zeev, the police chief of Jerusalem and head of the Israel Fire and Rescue service, all said the building was dangerous and unfinished, and traded blame for the accident. Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter that “my heart is with the victims” of the collapse.
For many Israelis, the disaster contained eerie echoes of the deadly Lag b’Omer stampede in Mount Meron only a few weeks prior that killed 45 haredi Orthodox Jews at another overcrowded holiday celebration.