Police, IDF officials concerned situation will develop into a second Meron disaster • Police will block main highways across central Israel

 People gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who passed away earlier today, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 18, 2022 (photo credit: FLASH90)
People gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who passed away earlier today, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 18, 2022 (photo credit: FLASH90)


A three-year-old boy has been reported missing for the last hour at Rabbi Kanievsky’s funeral procession, and the public has been asked to help find the child.

Officials expressed concerns that the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky could end in disaster, as crowds began to descend on Bnei Brak ahead of the funeral, slated to begin at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday. Some estimates place the expected attendance of the funeral at one million people.

On Saturday night, thousands of people crowded near Kanievsky’s home and attempted to break through police barriers. The Bnei Brak Municipality announced on Saturday night that the rabbi’s home was closed to the public and called on the public to refrain from arriving to the area.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was stuck for over an hour at Kanievsky’s home after coming to pay respects due to the intense crowding in the area.

“Rabbi Kanievsky’s death is a great loss to the Jewish people,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “His name will be remembered as an important part of Torah history of the people of Israel.

“The funeral will be a mass event, and we must make sure that it does not end in a mass disaster. The trauma of the Meron disaster is still fresh in all of us, this tragedy must not be repeated. I ask everyone for personal responsibility, to look after the children in particular,” Bennett continued.

 PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTER Omer Bar Lev, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (center) and head of the Northern Command Police District Shimon Lavie attend a ceremony in Nazareth in November. (credit: MEIR VAKNIN/FLASH90)
PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTER Omer Bar Lev, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (center) and head of the Northern Command Police District Shimon Lavie attend a ceremony in Nazareth in November. (credit: MEIR VAKNIN/FLASH90)


The Forum of Families of Meron Victims called on Israel Police and the hundreds of thousands of expected participants to do everything possible in order to avoid a “Meron 2” disaster. “Hopefully the lessons from the Meron disaster will be applied and every participant will be able to return home safely. A million people at a funeral in an area of just one kilometer is a real danger to lives,” said the Forum.

Rabbi Sariel Rosenberg, Rabbi Yehuda Silman, Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein and Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein published a letter on Saturday night, calling on Israelis not to arrive at the rabbi’s house or push to get near the rabbi’s body, stressing that as long as they are walking in some part of the procession they are considered as participating in the funeral procession.

The rabbis stressed that Kanievsky was very careful concerning the commandment “and you shall guard yourselves very well,” saying that it would be inconceivable that at his funeral people would be pushed and put in danger.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a situational assessment ahead of Sunday’s funeral with police chief Kobi Shabtai, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and other defense establishment representatives. Reports suggest the police are concerned that the event could take a drastic turn for the worst, with Maariv police sources comparing the event to a potential Meron disaster.

The IDF will aid police, specifically in search and rescue efforts, if the funeral escalates into a life-threatening event, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Saturday evening. The Israeli military also told personnel to limit travel to bases in central Israel such as the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

The Ramat Gan Stadium will be turned into a helicopter landing pad for evacuations if necessary. The IDF’s 669 rescue unit will be on alert and ready to help with evacuations due to the difficulties ambulances will face traveling due to the crowding.

Due to extreme crowding at the Jerusalem Navon station on Saturday night, Israel Railways asked those wishing to arrive in Bnei Brak to avoid arriving at the station. From 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Israel Railways announced it would be running a special line from the Jerusalem Navon station to the Bnei Brak station without any stops in between. Ushers will work to ensure that stations are not overcrowded and will only let people in as platforms are cleared.

Earlier on Saturday, Shabtai presented an operational plan drawn up by Israel Police to Bar Lev in efforts to control the event, which the public security minister referred to as an “event of unprecedented proportions.” It was decided that Israel Police will allocate some 3,000 officers to secure the funeral.

Main highways in central Israel, as well as entrance to and exit from Bnei Brak, will be blocked throughout Sunday as hundreds of thousands will flock to attend Kanievsky’s funeral in the Ponevezh community cemetery in the city. However, police will restrict entry to the cemetary to approximately 500 people, according to Haaretz. Checkpoints have been set up near the cemetery in order to reduce the number of people approaching the area.

Heavy traffic is expected on Highway 1 starting from Saturday evening, as many Jerusalem residents are set to make the journey west to central Israel. Highway 4, which runs along the entire Gush Dan region, will be partially closed from 6:00 a.m. local time, with the blocked section of the highway used by police as a bus terminal for Israelis entering and leaving Bnei Brak. Traffic is also expected to be disrupted on Highways 2, 5 and 6 throughout Sunday.

The number of attendees is expected to be similar to that of the funeral of Sephardic former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef in 2013, when up to 850,000 Israelis attended the funeral of Shas party’s spiritual leader, according to police estimates.

Police representatives held assessments with Kanievsky’s family at the rabbi’s home in Bnei Brak on Saturday evening. Hundreds of young haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men surrounded the house as police entered. United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Moshe Gafni was also seen making his way to the rabbi’s house.

The revered rabbi, considered to be the leader of his generation in haredi society, died at 94 on Friday after failed resuscitation attempts by United Hatzalah medics who rushed to the scene after receiving reports of Kanievsky’s collapse.

Road closures are also set to affect Ben-Gurion Airport and Sheba Medical Center. Officials at the Tel Hashomer medical complex have reportedly begun drawing emergency plans for patients and staff in the scenario that the hospital will be besieged by the masses attending rabbi Kanievsky’s funeral.

Police officials have made a request to the Israeli public to avoid driving to the Gush Dan region except those seeking to attend the funeral. “This is a national event, one of the biggest the State of Israel will experience,” the police chief said. “Israel Police’s aim is to ensure the funeral runs smoothly and that every Israeli that wishes to pay respect to the rabbi can do so safely,” Shabtai added.

Despite Jewish law stating it is customary to bury the dead on the day they die, leading rabbis decided it was best to hold Kanievsky’s funeral on Sunday, following consultations.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post