Tens of thousands of people took part in funerals Sunday night for two Americans and a Canadian as Israel began burying the final victims of the deadly crush on Mount Meron that killed 45 people.
Forty-one of the victims were buried by noon Sunday, but the final four funerals, for Daniel (Donny) Morris, 19, of Teaneck, New Jersey; Yossi Kohn, 22, from Cleveland; Dubi Steinmetz, 21, of Montreal; and Avrohom Daniel Ambon from Argentina, were delayed to allow relatives to arrive from overseas.
Ambon’s funeral, the last of the 45 ceremonies, will depart from the Heichal Yitzhak Yeshiva in Jerusalem at 9 am on Monday.
Several thousand people took part in Moriss’s funeral, which began at the Sha’alavim Yeshiva in central Israel where the teen had been studying. Sha’alvim is a hesder yeshiva that combines religious study with service in the Israel Defense Force.
The ceremony was also live-streamed to allow friends and family overseas to participate. Almost 70,000 people joined in online.
“I have so many questions but little to no answers,” sobbed his mother Mirlana Morris, calling his death “a pain more than a mother can bear.”
“But what I do know for sure is that you were loved by so many,” she said.
“We all always knew how wonderful you were, but in the last 72 hours countless people reached out to me to say how you touched so many lives with your kindness and love,” she said.
His uncle Rabbi Yechiel Morris called him “a mensch of the highest order.”
✡️???? — VIDEO: At the Levaya of Donny Morris Z”L tonight, who was tragically killed in Meron on Lag Baomer.
— Belaaz (@TheBelaaz) May 3, 2021
Morris was buried on the Mount of Olives, the ancient cemetery overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City.
Thousands also accompanied Kohn and Steinmetz from the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem where they both studied.
Steinmetz was buried in Jerusalem, his family coming directly to the cemetery from Ben Gurion airport.
“Dubi was not here for himself, he was here for his family for his brothers, sisters, everyone. He always gave to others that is what we need to learn from him, to give to others,” his brother said.
Kohn was buried in Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv.
A friend who was with him at Meron said he was “always smiling, always helping.”
“We danced together just minutes before the disaster,” he eulogized him. “Whenever we would meet he always asked about me as if he had been friends for our whole lives,” he said.
The majority of the funerals were held on Saturday night, with men, teenagers and children buried in ceremonies attended by hundreds, as officials wrapped up the process of identifying all the bodies.
Brothers Moshe Mordechai Elhadad, 12, and Yosef David Elhadad, 18, of Jerusalem were buried late Saturday near Meron, the site of the disaster. Other funerals were held in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, where many of the victims lived.
Before Shabbat began Friday night, 32 of the 45 bodies were formally identified at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, and 22 released to relatives for burial. Funerals were held for 13 of the victims. The institute halted the identification process in the evening following a ruling from the chief rabbi that it could not continue on the Sabbath.
The identification work continued on Saturday night, after Shabbat ended, and on Sunday morning the institute said it had identified all 45 bodies from the deadly crush and 44 bodies had been released for burial. It added that the remaining body would be released during the day at his family’s request.
“The institute staff shares the families’ sorrow and grief,” the institute said in a statement released by the Health Ministry.
Jewish tradition calls for the dead to be buried as soon as possible. Families whose loved ones were positively identified rushed to do so Friday before the Jewish day of rest began, with hundreds in attendance at many of the services.
Avigdor Hayut, a Bnei Brak resident who was hurt in the crush , was released from the hospital to attend the funeral of his 13-year-old son Yedidia. Hayut said Yedidia’s funeral had initially been set to take place on Friday but authorities had accidentally released a different boy’s body for the burial.
Hundreds attended his funeral in Bnei Brak late on Saturday night.
“We bought burial plots next to yours,” said Avigdor Hayut at the funeral of his teenage son, vowing they would never be separated.
Shmuel Meir Hayut, 10, told reporters at the funeral that he had shouted the traditional Shema prayer when suffocating under the crowds with his father and brother, believing he would swiftly die. After making his way out of the crush, he alerted medics to care for his injured father but lost sight of his older brother.
Hundreds also took part in the funeral in Ramle for Yosef Mastorov, 17, whose father said in a eulogy that “we had a dream to see him [get married] under the chuppah, with his brothers and sisters.”
The father added: “He told me, ‘I’m going to Meron.’
“I said, ‘Why do you need to go there?’
“He told me, ‘Father I want to pray all night and then I’ll go back to yeshiva.’
“I know now that he is learning in heaven.”
Yaakov Elhanan Strikovsky, 20, of Elad was laid to rest late Saturday at the Yarkon Cemetery in Petah Tikva.
“My child is gone. Why? Why?” wailed his mother, Rachel Strikovsky, according to the Ynet news site.
Menachem Knoblowitz, 22, of Borough Park, Brooklyn was buried in Jerusalem without his close family members or fiancé present. The Hasid from the Gur sect was engaged to a young woman from Lakewood, New Jersey, according to social media.
At least 20 people remained hospitalized on Saturday, with a number of them in critical or serious condition. The condition of several people hurt in the crush improved over the weekend. A 52-year-old man who was seriously injured returned to full consciousness at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. At the same hospital, the condition of an 11-year-old boy who was seriously injured also improved.
With 45 dead and dozens injured, the disaster in the early hours of Friday is believed to be the worst peacetime tragedy in Israel’s history, surpassing the death toll of 44 from the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire.
The victims included many children and teens, including two sets of brothers, as well as young fathers and rabbis. They included at least nine foreign citizens, among them six Americans, two Canadians and an Argentinian.
More than 100,000 people were attending the annual gathering in the northern Galilee, which includes visits to the gravesite Bar Yochai and massive bonfires on the mountainside. A bonfire lighting ceremony for the Toldot Aharon Hasidic sect was being held at the pilgrimage area, close to Bar Yochai’s tomb.
As the dense crowds began to exit, a narrow, sloping walkway on the exit route became immensely congested, people slipped on the metal floor and others fell on them, precipitating fatal crushing, exacerbated by a reported police barrier at the bottom of the incline.