Stampede at religious event in Israel kills dozens

A stampede during a religious celebration at Mount Meron, Israel, early on April 30, has killed dozens of people, according to emergency officials. Some of the victims were from New Jersey and New York, according to reports.

More than 100 people were injured at the Lag B'Omer event, dozens critically, according to Magen David Adom, or MDA, Israel's national emergency service. At least 45 people died, according to authorities.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched medics and search and rescue teams along with helicopters to assist with a "mass casualty incident" in the area, the AP reported. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron on Thursday, offered his condolences and announced that Sunday would be a day of national mourning.

"In these moments our people unite and that is what we are doing at this moment as well," he said.

The event was the largest public gathering in Israel since the COVID-19 pandemic began, The Times of Israel reported.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gathered at the foot of Mount Meron to celebrate the holiday, which honors Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic who is buried there. Videos posted to social media showed large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed together in tight spaces.

An American yeshiva student, Danny Morris, from Teaneck, New Jersey, was at the celebrations with a group and remained missing on Friday, according to The Jerusalem Post. Also, three men from Airmont, Kiryas Joel, and Monsey, New York, are among the dead, according to reports.

In a statement, President Joe Biden called the loss of life "heartbreaking" and the United States stands with the people of Israel and with Jewish communities around the world.

"The people of the United States and Israel are bound together by our families, our faiths, and our histories, and we will stand with our friends," Biden said. "Our prayers are with those who were injured and all those who lost loved ones. May their memories be a blessing."

With The Associated Press and Storyful.