One year after the disaster, thousands of Israelis rushed to the sanctuary

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JERUSALEM – Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Wednesday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

This year’s Log Ba’om holiday festivities in Mount Merne are marred by last year’s deaths, the biggest civilian disaster in the country’s history.

Hours before the celebration, highways leading to the hills were already blocked.

An independent commission of inquiry into the disaster has looked into major security flaws and overcrowding at the top of the hill and recommended limiting attendance and restructuring safety protocols and infrastructure.

Attendance this year was limited to 16,000 people who had to confirm advance tickets. Police said about 8,000 police personnel would be deployed around the scene to maintain order.

The site is thought to be the tomb of a prominent rabbi of the second century, and has attracted Jewish pilgrims and worshipers for centuries. The spring festival is characterized by large bonfires, songs and dances.

On Tuesday, police said they stopped a minibus near Mount Maron with box cutters, wire cutters, paint bombs and other equipment that officers suspected was intended to vandalize infrastructure at the site. At least three people have been arrested.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday before the start of the holiday at sunset that “the Israeli government has made a major investment to allow for greater and safer participation.”

“I urge the public to follow the guidelines and bring a ticket so that we can have the festival safely,” he said.

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