Let’s start with the beginning of the previous Eye of Prophecy article posted 6-5-21: Turmoil, Tragedy & Terror in Israel (Part I … Turmoil). In italics:
From April 30th to May 21st, sirens pierced the ears and hearts of Israeli Jews.
Sirens to announce the arrival of personnel and equipment to fight fires all over Israel.
Police and military sirens…
Air raid sirens…
When you combine the turmoil of an Israeli government following the country’s 4th election (March 23, 2021) in two years (under the helm of what many consider to be Israel’s greatest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in terms of national and international accomplishments for Israel) but still unable to form a majority coalition of 61 seats in the Knesset, with the tragedy on Mount Meron (April 30th) followed recently by terror inflicted on Israelis via indiscriminate firing of over 4,000 missiles from Gaza into Israel (beginning on May 10th); preceded by tens of thousands of Arabs rioting in several towns, including Jerusalem (earlier in May); an argument could be made that Israel’s resolve and resiliency have not been tested like this since the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2014.
…Some would say not since the Palestinian intifada of 2001. Or the most difficult time in Israel’s 73-year history since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
Israelis needed and heeded the sirens which fortunately have subsided since Israel and Hamas of the Gaza Strip agreed to a cease fire on 5-21-21.
Hopefully, Israelis will now heed more than just sirens. With ears to hear and hearts longing to know, perhaps they (and Jews worldwide) will also have eyes to see the signs of the (end) times.
To that end the ongoing challenge and premise delivered in the previous article will be (partially) restated:
Challenge: …To compellingly consider that the recent developments in Israel should be a wake-up call to look up for divine guidance in general. And for their returning Messiah in particular.
Premise: The current (internal) turmoil produced in part by Israel’s political system and sometimes dysfunctional government, the tragedy of the recent Meron disaster, and the terror caused by the latest war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas terrorist organization contain precedents, parallels, and patterns of 1st Century Israel, before and/or after the (first) arrival of Israel’s Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, these recent events are preparing and even precipitating the return of both Christ (Jesus) and Antichrist (Nero).
(*Note: After Part I article was posted, Israel did manage to form a bare majority (fragile) government with Naftali Bennett replacing Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. And just a few days ago, the cease fire was interrupted when Gaza Palestinians lobbed fire kites and balloons into Israel setting several tender-dry farm fields on fire.)
(One of several of these fires)
This week’s Part II article will focus on the incident on Mount Meron in northern Israel that occurred on April 30, 2021.
Tragedy in Israel
Definition of Tragic: “marked by, or expressive of tragedy; lamentable … disparity between the actual and the ideal…” (Webster’s Dictionary).
Definition of Tragedy (older and narrower concept): “a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that excites pity or terror” (Webster’s Dictionary).
Greek tragedies (plays) were the main expression of “the literary genre of tragic dramas.”
The More Current and Expanded Meaning of Tragedy: “a disastrous event, calamity, misfortune … tragic quality or element” (Webster’s).
Tragedy is connected to the idea of flawed and/or irony. In fact, Webster’s Dictionary contains the term: tragic flaw (a flaw in the character of the hero of a tragedy that brings about his downfall).
Also, tragic irony.
Partial Definition of Irony: “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result…” (Webster’s).
Some synonyms of incongruity: strangeness, incompatibility, inconsistency, bizarreness.
The episode at Mt Meron was a tragedy in every sense of the concept. As opposed to the more general idea of natural disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and the like); or that of accidents caused by human negligence usually involving cars, trains, buses, airplanes, fires, and industrial mishaps.
For the most part, typical accidents that happen globally on a near daily basis could have been prevented—with proper lookout, management and control, quicker/better decision making, and other reasons. Negligence that is part of the natural human experience. People make mistakes.
Whereas tragedy supersedes simple neglect in that the incident SHOULD HAVE been prevented. Which would not have taken place had this, that, or the other occurred … or not occurred.
A tragedy (tragic event) entails more drama, irony, misfortune, and oft times deeper heartbreak than does a common—using the word neutrally and respectfully—disaster or accident. A chief characteristic of a tragedy: it is both surreal and all too real.
What happens is the exact horrible opposite of what could/should have been (incompatible and inconsistent with) a time of celebration and joy which was the intended or expected result. Then after the fact (speaking specifically now of the Mt. Meron tragedy) and after showing great respect for the time of mourning, it is vital to look closely at the how and why of the occurrence.
To examine one’s heart and the national conscience.
I realize these are difficult (perhaps painful) concepts and comments to consider. So, let’s survey what happened at Mt. Meron to determine if Israelis, Jews worldwide, and Christian supporters of God’s chosen people and promised land can and will listen and learn from this tragedy. With the realization that it has precedents, parallels, and/or patterns found in Israel’s Scripturally documented past. In preparation for the soon to come 21st century return of Messiah.
The Occasion … What, Where, and How
At the time of the incident, there were over 100,000 mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews who had just finished a celebratory worship style service and were exiting a stadium, having made the annual pilgrimage to/near the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who died in the second century A.D.
Suddenly, merriment turned into mourning at the annual Israeli Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer held on Mount Meron in northern Israel. On April 30th, 2021, 45 men and boys were literally crushed to death and 150 injured … several in serious condition. Many leaving the main area of the massive service had fallen on slick metal flooring; made even more slippery by water and other liquids spilled from plastic bottles/cups with the containers also covering the walkway. This tunnel-like exit ramp was too narrow and too sloped which caused a domino stampede effect.
From an article written by Paul Shindman posted in the online news source World Israel News not long after this disaster, he quotes an eyewitness, Yehuda Gottleib, a volunteer EMT: “I was on duty when I saw dozens of people fall on top of one another during the collapse. A large number of them were crushed and lost consciousness.”
In one of several online articles written about Lag B’Omer celebrated in small groups all over Israel and in mass (huge crowds on Mt. Meron) a few days prior to its observation, we read the following in The Places of Israel:
“Meron, originally known as Merom, was first mentioned in the Bible as the site of Joshua’s victory over the Canaanite kings (Joshua Chapter 11) …. Meron is most famous as home to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, believed to be the author of the mystical Zohar…. Lag B’omer … is the day that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai died. As such, the day is traditionally devoted to celebrating life and accomplishments. During the festivities attended by Jews of every religious and political persuasion, bonfires are lit, music is blaring, and dancing is everywhere.”
Lag B’Omer is literally translated as “the 33rd day of the Omer, which is on the 18th day of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar (April 30th of this year). The Omer consists of seven weeks that begin on the second day/night of Passover and end at the Jewish Festival of Weeks called Shavuot … also known as Pentecost.
In an online United for Israel article posted just a few days before this tragedy, Rabbinic Director Ari Enkin wrote a summary of this festival and a (glowing) tribute to the long-departed Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, but also to Rabbi Yochai’s mentor, Rabbi Akiva.
“Lag B’Omer also marks the yartzeit (anniversary of date of death) of the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who among his many accomplishments, allegedly authored the Zohar, the primary work on Kabbalah” (emphasis is part of the original article).
Rabbi Enkin goes on to list some miracles attributed to Rabbi Yochai directly or miraculous events in his life. Such as: “A prominent feature of the celebrations is the bonfires and in Israel groups of people singing around a bonfire can be seen across the country. There is much discussion on what these bonfires represent. Some suggest that it is to recall the fire which was said to have erupted at the moment of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s death.
“It is also intended to recall Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s gaze, which was said to be as powerful as fire and would vaporize anything that earned his disfavor. Finally, bonfires represent the ‘fire’ of Torah, especially the esoteric side that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed through the Zohar and other mystical teachings.”
*Note: It is evident that these and other paranormal-like attributes and episodes in the life of Rabbi Yochai are mostly conjecture … embellishments that produce legends. But there is no denying that this rabbi has captured the undivided attention and generated a sizeable following of observant Jews down through the centuries.
Wrote Rabbi Enkin: “Although one might think that a day of fasting and introspection would be appropriate for the … anniversary of the death of a tzaddik, a righteous person, as is the case regarding Moses, but Lag B’omer is uniquely different. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai had requested that the day of his death become an annual celebration, as it is the day on which he would reveal many secrets of the Torah.”
And celebrate they do. Including some of the most intense reveling in which Israelis (mostly Orthodox men and teenagers) participate annually. It is a time of rejoicing and partying in equal measure.
(One of many bonfires throughout Israel during Lag B’Omer festival)
Yet it is more than celebratory. From all I have read and seen—including the tragically ironic late-night service just moments before the disaster occurred in which tens of thousands sang Ani Maamin (“I believe”), a musical version of the Jewish sage Maimonides’ 13 Jewish principles of faith—Jewish honor of Rabbi Yochai borders on deep reverence … passionate esteem.
So much so that it is (seemingly) equivalent to worship. I am not stating that as fact, which is why the modifier seemingly is used.
However, I will list one more quote from Rabbi Ari Enkin’s article to add further commentary regarding the veneration afforded to Rabbi Yochai’s memory: “There is a well-known Lag B’omer custom for children to play with bows and arrows, which is said to be alluded to in the verse (he then quotes I Chronicles 8:40).
“…It is explained that playing with bows and arrows on Lag B’omer recalls that during the lifetime of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, no rainbow had been seen. This is because the rainbow, which represents God’s protection over the world, would have been superfluous, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai served this purpose.”
No (need for) rainbows during Bar Yochai’s lifetime!? Because he provided the protection before his death that only God could/would provide based on and through God’s promise never to judge the earth again by flood!?
The conclusion is inescapable: These kinds of attributes possessed by, and adoration afforded to are normally (expected) reserved for the God of Israel. And from Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians, also adulation for and worship of Jesus of Nazareth who arose from the dead to prove he was/is … the Son of God, Messiah.
Was the Lag B’Omer on Mt. Meron a True Tragedy? To What Extent?
Considering that both natural and man-made disasters occur all over the world on a regular basis—some with many more casualties—what makes this incident on Mt. Meron in Israel so terribly tragic … ironically so?
There are several, including the religious nature of Lag B’Omer already mentioned; but for sake of time/space only two more reasons with be provided.
(1) Magnitude of this sad occurrence: affirmed by how shockingly serious it was to Israelis, already traumatized by two years of turmoil from a mostly dysfunctional government (as presented in Part I of this trilogy) plus the same trouble experienced by the whole world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That and the casualty count. Considering the size of Israel and population of Israeli Jews (7.7 million) 45 fatalities is no small number. As a comparison, the population of the United States is approximately 43 times that of Israeli Jews. Using that analogy would result in a proportional count of 1,935 Americans dead. The injury figure of 150 in Israel would equate to 6,450 in the United States.
(2) Reactions on a global scale: demonstrate that the incident on Mt. Meron was, indeed, a tragedy as previously defined (with commentary) in today’s article. There were dozens of sympathy and empathy messages from high-ranking officials within Israel and without, including heads of state. Time/space permits only a few.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: (at that time but on June 13th replaced by Naftali Bennet)
“The Mt. Meron disaster is one of the worst disasters to hit the State of Israel. We grieve for the victims. Our hearts are with the families…. There were heartbreaking scenes here. People were crushed to death, including children.
“…We will carry out a thorough, serious and in-depth investigation in order to ensure that such a disaster does not recur.”
*Note: To date, no official investigation has taken place.
Benjamin then said: “I would like to declare Sunday (May 2, two days after the tragedy) as a day of national mourning…” (parenthesis mine).
(Prime Minister–at the time–Benjamin Netanyahu surveying the aftermath of the Mt. Meron tragedy)
It is uncommon, if not rare, that a nation’s leader proclaims a national day (or period) of mourning over an accident.
U.S. President Joe Biden: “The United States stands with the people of Israel, and with Jewish communities the world over in mourning the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron. The loss among worshippers practicing their faith is heartbreaking….”
German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer: “Waking up to the shocking news of the tragedy of Lag B’Omer festivities … I am deeply saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred tonight…”
Messages from other dignitaries including but by no means limited to: Russia (President Vladimir Putin); India (Prime Minister Narendra Modi); many European leaders and officials (including Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain); several Arab countries (like Bahrain and the United Emirates); Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols; and most of the political leaders within Israel.
Even from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who conveyed his (politically correct, so as not to seem insensitive) condolences to Israel’s President Rivlin … instead of to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“We are praying to the Lord for mercy to victims and speedy recovery to those who suffered injuries, and for the families of victims.”
*Note: To which “Lord” is Abbas referring? Could it be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (of the Promised Land of Israel and of God’s chosen people, the Jews)? Doubtful. For you see: the Islam god Allah (through the Koran) compels Muslims to persecute and kill Jews.
On the other hand, is it the thought that counts?
Who Is to Blame? Anyone … Everyone?
I have read dozens of articles on the Lag B’ Omer festival and/or the tragic event on Mt. Meron. As anticipated, most were written by op-ed authors who (or whom they wrote about, i.e., quoted) encouraged Israelis to do the right thing. To commiserate with the anguish of those whose relatives and friends were killed or injured … a time of mostly silence and mourning. Then later point fingers of blame if they were so inclined. Many Israelis (but not all) followed this protocol out of sincere sorrow and reflective respect for the dead/injured and their families.
But as expected, there were fingers of blame pointed soon after this horrific event. For example, in an Israel Hayom article posted that same day author Adi Hashmonel writes:
“Senior police officers told Israel Hayom the Mount Meron disaster was a ‘fiasco, start to finish.’ A former top Northern District Officer refused to absolve rabbis from partial responsibility for the events. ‘The real bosses on the ground at Mount Meron are the Haredi leaders. They have the final say on who gets in or not. That’s insane. The power of each Hassidic dynasty is reflected in how things take place on the ground and the police tend to seek compromises with them.’”
This district officer also cast (partial or equal) blame on the police by stating: “They (the police) should never had allowed so many people into the compound. What was the expected capacity? You have to stop letting people in when it’s met…”
In a subsequent Israel Hayom article posted 5-2-21 (just two days later), entitled, At Mt. Meron, the writing was on the wall, the co-authors began: “In yet another sign Friday’s deadly stampede could have been avoided, the State Comptroller’s Office repeatedly warned of overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure at Mount Meron.”
They referred to a 2008 report in which the State Comptroller at the time, “…wrote that inadequate maintenance at the mount ‘does not suit the sanctity of the site.’ He explicitly mentioned the possibility of a mass-casualty event taking place on the mountain and warned access paths ‘could not accommodate rescue services.’”
Subsequent studies and reports (2009, 2011, 2016) were cited with similar conclusions reached, … just a matter of time before this type of tragedy would take place.
(Some of the bodies of those killed on/near the site of the disaster)
So, who (or what) is to blame? How much, if any, responsibility for this tragedy will the Haredim themselves (primarily Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox) accept?
Will the Israeli government impose rules and regulations by means of placing this religious event under the ultimate control of a governmental agency—which it never has been? Will the strained relationship between secular and religious Israelis increase or lessen because of this tragedy?
The following excerpt is from an article written by well-known author Johanthan S. Tobin, editor in chief of the online news source, Jewish News Syndicate posted on May 3, 2021, entitled: Can a disaster breed Jewish unity or widen the communal breach?
“There is nothing positive to be gleaned from an event that led to the deaths of 45 Jews and injuring of 150 others. The wake of the fatal stampede in the early hours of Friday morning at Israel’s Mount Meron during the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage caused shock and mourning throughout the Jewish world. But perhaps it might also have put a more human face on a sector of the Jewish community—the ultra-Orthodox—that is often viewed by most other Jews with suspicion and hostility. And it might also be possible for many haredim to draw some conclusions of their own with respect to their unwillingness to subordinate their activities to state regulation and to think better of the secular Jews who did so much to save lives and who rally to their aid on-site, as well as comfort family members, elsewhere in Israel.”
Although Jonathan Tobin concludes his article on a somewhat (guarded) positive note concerning the more subtle changes in Israeli society regarding “…the ability of Jews to survive and surmount such problems…”, he states:
“Indeed, in Israel, as JNS has pointed out, part of the problem at Mount Meron was that the refusal of the ultra-Orthodox to let the government regulate their annual event—in much the same way that they demand autonomy about everything else—was clearly part of the prescription that inexorably led to tragedy….
“Haredim, both in Israel and the United States, exists separately from the rest of the Jewish world. The two sides stare at each other across a seemingly unbridgeable divide…. The quick transition from sorrow to politics with respect to Mount Meron reinforces the notion that this divide is unbridgeable.”
In a prior article (May 2nd) Alex Traiman, managing director of Jewish News Syndicate, gets even more specific:
“The event should open up a period of national reckoning. Whether an honest reckoning will take place—one marked by constructive and unifying measures—will require Israelis to look deep down into their own behavior.”
*Note: I would add: How deep should Israelis look, and should it be for more than just their behavior?
Alex Traiman continues: “Despite their staunch religious observance, Orthodox sects have largely angered other sectors of Israel’s public for years. Men refuse compulsory army service. Many opt to study in state-funded learning institutions, rather than work and take on their share of the tax burden…
“While many of Irael’s Orthodox truly represent a beautiful blend of advanced religious observance within a modern state, that beauty is often marred by those who express a lack of appreciation for individuals and communities with lesser religious observance. As this tragedy has struck at the heart of their own community, it may be time for greater humility on their part.”
Op-ed author Akiva Bigman was even more direct in an article published on 5-7-2021 in Israel Hayom, entitled Support for the Haredim, but not their worldview.
“The week that followed the devastating Lag B’Omer stampede can be described in two words: love and alienation. On the one hand, all of Israel—secular, leftist, Arab, and Druze—embraced the Haredi sector and mobilized to donate blood, offer financial support, and visit the mourners’ homes….
“On the other hand, while the public is incredibly supportive of the ultra-Orthodox as individuals, the disaster exacerbated alienation from the Haredi worldview even more. The response of sage Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky to the tragedy is just one such example. The public cannot accept the view that such a heartbreaking tragedy was fated and that the answer is to become more observant.”
[*Note: Akiva Bigman was referring to Rabbi Kanievsky’s (preventative) resolution for such tragedies: that of reading the Torah more; for women to dress more modestly; washing of one’s hands before eating was not being done properly in Israel. Concerning Bigman’s statement that the Israeli public cannot accept the tragedy as being “fated” (destined), does not mean that it wasn’t. The consensus already is that it was physically (inadequate infrastructure and logistics) and socially (mindset and behavior of the Orthodox) inevitable. In a moment we’ll explore the spiritual side of whether this tragedy was “fated.” However, I totally agree—but as a believer (with a Biblical worldview) in Jesus Christ as Messiah Savior—with Bigman’s observation that the Rabbis’ prescription for Jews to be even more religious/observant presumably as a remedy … is way off the mark.]
Listen Up … Look Up
Ironically (in the context of the Mt. Meron incident and Rabbi Kanievsky’s recommendations which were more like challenges to both religious and irreligious Jews alike), the ultra-Orthodox Jews of the 1st century, called Pharisees, made a similar challenge to the man who had already demonstrated his divinity—by many marvelous miracles. Some of which the Pharisees witnessed, but still would not acknowledge him as the Son of God—the long-awaited Messiah.
Read with me:
“Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, ‘Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat’” (Matthew 15:1-2).
Jesus’s answer was somewhat like his response to several other challenges issued by Israel’s religious leaders of that time (not unlike the Orthodox in today’s Israel); he exposed their rote emphasis on tradition and the letter of the (Mosaic) law in contrast to the spirit of the law. Said Jesus:
“…And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:3-9, with Jesus quoting Isaiah 29:13).
In that same scene Jesus later said to his disciples about the Pharisees:
Should there be serious introspection among religious and secular alike or merely investigation? To what extent? Limited to just the external features of this tragedy, such as better crowd control and facilities to accommodate so many.
Or with the broadest perspective possible? Such as: Internal examination of the heart and soul searching. To also, “Look Up.”
My opinion/response is yes (in fact, imperative). All Jews everywhere should stand up and take notice of this tragedy, preceded by the turmoil within Israel created by their polarized dichotomies, politically and religiously. With the tragedy followed shortly by the terror (next article) created by not only the latest war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas (Gaza); but also, the unprecedented Israeli Arab rioting that destroyed Israeli property (homes, businesses, synagogues), and killed or injured Israelis in (mixed, where Jews and Arabs live side by side) several Israeli cities.
For both blind guides and the blind (religious and secular) to have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to heed the words of God the Father, “O Israel, if you would only listen to me” (Psalm 81:8). And to God the Son: “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your redemption is near!” (Luke 21:28).
Precedents, Patterns, Parallels, Principles, and Prototypes
For the religious and secular alike to carefully consider correlations between the extraordinary events in Israel’s 1st century history (and before that) and its’ 20th century prophetic fulfillments of Israel’s rebirth and remarkable return of many Jews to Israel, plus its’ 21st century prophetic destiny. To give equal historical and theological weight to the New Testament as God’s inspired Word as they do with the Old Testament. To see that it gloriously unwraps the New Covenant predicted in Jeremiah and the Messiah who would implement that Covenant of Grace.
To give as much (if not more) time and attention to the prophecies contained in the Psalms and prophetic books of the Old Testament, particularly the end times and Messianic prophecies. Then match them with the birth, life, teachings, miracles, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
And while they are at it to perhaps recall two incidents in the Jewish Scriptures that are surprisingly similar to the tragedy at Mt. Meron.
To that end, here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, The Ark of The Covenant, Part II (posted 6-27-2015). The setting is the Philistines capture of the Ark. In italics:
…So, too, were the Philistines familiar with the presumed legendary power of the Ark of the Covenant.
“What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. ‘What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?’ When they were told it was because the Ark of the Lord had arrived, they panicked. ‘The gods have come into their camp!’ they cried. ‘This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness’” (I Samuel 4:6-8).
…To them—sadly even to the Israelites—the Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious object that possessed magical, cryptic clout. The army that carried it into battle would be invincible. But this was not just some ancient fantasy that would be considered absurd in today’s ultra-modern civilization. This same perverted belief drove Hitler and the Third Reich to extreme measures to try to find and wield the Ark of the Covenant in their conquest of Europe and eventually the world.
Then the incident in question after the Ark of The Covenant was returned to Israel:
In a foregone conclusion, the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, specifically to the Jews of Beth-shemesh who were overjoyed to get it back. So much so that they, too, forgot God’s solemn instructions as to how the Ark must be handled reverently and treated respectfully; including only Levites carrying it … which was done upon its return. But that no one must look inside the Ark, which some of the Israelites failed to obey. The Lord would not permit even his own people from misusing the Ark of the Covenant; to flippantly disrespect and disregard the holiness and sanctity that the Lord had placed on the perfect purpose and proper position of the Ark—God’s very presence above the Ark of the Lord in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle.
The result: “But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. ‘Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?’ they cried out. ‘Where can we send the Ark from here?’” (I Samuel 6:19-20).
Indeed, it was a severe object lesson.
Followed by a similar incident during King David’s first attempt to transport the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Although this time the Lord struck down only one man (for touching the Ark), it was still a powerful parallel to the precedent set with the first Ark tragedy (see II Samuel 6).
(Depiction of Uzzah’s death when touched the Ark of the Covenant)
Yet, it was broader than the act of touching and looking into the ark. It had to do with God’s people giving as much or more significance to what they considered mystical powers of the Ark itself, instead of the Lord of the Ark—the God of Israel. In that regard, they were no different than the pagan Philistines.
In an eerily similar fashion, many of the Orthodox at Mt. Meron follow to some extent the Kabbalah (or Chabad … a more modern adaptation), especially the version taught by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai—which is the whole purpose for the Lag B’Omer festival. Time/space does not permit elaboration on this branch of Judaism. Except some descriptive words to summarize the extra-Biblical (even anti-Biblical) practice: mystical, esoteric, secretive (generally only for the more knowledgeable or persistent), including features of the occult and Eastern mysticism.
On the more positive side, those Jews who delve into Kabbalah (at least in theory) place a great deal of emphasis on the coming Messiah. So much so, that the practice of this off-shoot of Judaism will allegedly hasten his coming. Since the 2nd century A.D. a few rabbis and/or prominent Jewish leaders were (some still are) considered to be the Jewish Messiah. On the negative side, Jesus of Nazareth has continuously been ignored, dismissed, or outright rejected as the Messiah—despite the historically verified account of his resurrection, among other overwhelming evidence.
More Tragic Irony
A notable fact is that the number of Hebrews killed in the first Ark tragedy was seventy. Which matches the number of elders appointed by Moses to lead and govern the Israelites before and after they entered the Promised Land. With Moses as their leader, the number was 71, but the governing body itself consisted principally of seventy men. This entity is better known as the Sanhedrin.
An uncanny parallel to that number is the number of Jews killed in the April Mt. Meron tragedy … 45.
Plus, the number who died in the first Lag B’Omer disaster in 1911 when a roof railing collapsed causing people to fall almost 30 feet on another part of the crowd below … 11.
Plus, the number who (in May 1976—45 years ago) lost their lives when a tour bus carrying passengers to the Lag B’Omer festival fell (drove) off a cliff at Mount Meron … 13.
A total of 69. Only one less than the number who died trying to get a glimpse of (determining) what kind of mystical, magical powers the Ark of the Covenant contained. Thereby, affording more reverence to the Ark as the supernatural source of power than to the Lord of the Ark of The Covenant.
There’s more: On May 16, 2021 (2 ½ weeks after the Mt. Meron disaster), bleachers collapsed in a Jerusalem synagogue which was still unfinished and not yet approved for use under city code requirements. Fifty were injured. The number of fatalities … 2.
Adding 2 to 69 (the three Mt. Meron tragedies) equals 71—the full number of the Sanhedrin including the leader (President). Tragic? Ironic? Tragic irony?
(A gathering in Israel to mourn for the 45 who died on Mt. Meron)
Am I implying that the Lord brought about the Lag B’Omer disaster?
Two-part answer: (1) Absolutely not, am I absolutely saying that. (2) Possibly, yes.
However, no matter what the evidence might show or suggest, shouldn’t Israelis (and Jews everywhere) take stock in what’s happening. Beginning with COVID-19.
Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, COVID-19 / Just Another Plague? Part I (posted 5-9-2020).
Because there hasn’t been a scourge quite like this coronavirus—how easily and extensively it has spread—both believers and unbelievers are voicing their opinions and/or seeking answers to questions outside of or in addition to quantified (data based) “scientific” solutions and explanations.
Like (but not limited to) the following:
(If) God is in control; will he step in and bring it under control? If so, when? How many people must suffer and die?
Did God merely allow this pandemic, or did he send it? Meaning, is it simply a warning or is it a judgment? Is there even a difference between the two, considering God’s ultimate sovereignty?
With the understanding that God can and sometimes will prevent natural disasters and man-made catastrophes from happening in the first place, does he on other occasions not only allow such things to happen, but intensify them? In the case of the coronavirus, on a global scale.
Is this global epidemic, in fact, a wake-up call from God to get our attention? A preview of and preparation for coming attractions? In which His sovereignty will be on universal display, i.e. His obliteration of the Gog/Magog coalition and then resounding victory over the Antichrist-led ten nation coalition following the Seal, Trumpet, & Bowl Judgments.
Does this pandemic have special relevance to the last days of the end times?
In principle, these same questions could be asked of the Mt. Meron tragedy.
To consider the incongruity (remember that word defined earlier in this article) between one of the reasons for this celebration—ardent desire for Messiah to come while identifying a few Orthodox rabbis of the past and even the present as Messiah or Messiah-like. Set against the continual rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as fulfilling in extraordinary detail the Messianic prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures.
There are 10 annual festivals observed to varying degrees by Jews worldwide including, of course, in Israel.
Seven were ordained directly by God to his people through Moses. With four of them by and large celebrated more than the others: Passover (Pesach), Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
The eighth was instituted as a national holiday after God’s providential deliverance of the Jews (through Esther and Mordecai) … Purim.
The ninth is not found directly in the Bible but was clearly the result of God sovereignly protecting and providing for the Maccabean Jews when—against all odds—they defeated the mighty Greek army led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C. Plus the miracle of one day’s supply of holy oil lasting eight days. This well-known celebration is called Hannukah.
The tenth is not found at all in the Bible. Nor is there anything in Israel’s national experience (as the Promised Land and/or Chosen People of God) to consider it worthy of commemoration… Lag B’Omer.
Instead of lighting bonfires in remembrance of the (alleged) light of Rabbi Yochai’s mysterious writings and life that was as much or more legend than fact, why couldn’t / shouldn’t God’s people take a hard look at their own Scriptures—especially end times prophecies including the Messiah. Then give themselves the benefit of the doubt to also (at least) read the amazing account of Jesus of Nazareth in the four Gospels. Plus, the books of Romans and Hebrews in the New Testament.
They just might see the light. The real light of the Messiah as foretold by Isaiah: “…and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant (the new covenant) with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind…” (Isaiah 42:6-7, parenthesis mine).
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
Things to Ponder
The incident at Mr. Meron was truly a tragedy. It resulted in deep mourning … individually, nationally, and even internationally.
As much or more than Israelis killed in their four wars of survival … 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. Or regional conflicts with terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Or by individual (lone wolf) Palestinian atrocities against Jews with guns, knives, rocks, fire balloons, and vehicles.
One only need consider the source (Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians) and the reason—hatred of the Jews and desire to replace the sovereign State of Israel with another Arab state … and in the Promised Land of Israel no less.
But an internal tragedy like what happened on Mr. Meron in which so many observant Jews died during one of the most jubilant of Israel’s festivals is considerably harder to process and ponder.
Still, that should not prohibit the processing or prevent the pondering.
For example: To correlate the Mt. Meron mourning over the death of some of the most religious of Jews just minutes after singing a song that included a longing for Messiah’s arrival to the following passage that so poignantly points to the Messiah. In fact, the Messiah is speaking:
“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pieced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. The sorrow and mourning in Jerusalem on that day will be like the great mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. All Israel will mourn, each clan by itself, with the husbands separate from their wives…” (Zechariah 12:10-12).
Question: Why on earth would the Jews mourn for/over their Messiah who arrives to supernaturally rescue them from utter defeat (at the hands of Antichrist and his coalition) in the final battle for Israel and Jerusalem, as prophesied in Zechariah Chapters 12 & 14? And Daniel 11:36-45.
This should be a euphoric time of great jubilation, instead of massive mourning.
The text is crystal clear why Israel will grieve. This is the 2nd appearance (return) of the Messiah because he had already been pierced (crucifixion) when he came the first time to save his people from their sins through his substitutionary death on the cross (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).
They will rejoice but not until they mourn deeply for missing and dismissing Jesus as Messiah when he arrived in the 1st century.
As recorded in the Gospels based on the event (along with hundreds of other events) seen and heard by (in this case) Jesus’s disciples, Peter, James, and John on what is called the Mount of (Jesus’s) Transfiguration.
Jesus is the Son of God; the Son of David; the Son of Man.
He is the Light of the World.
HE IS MESSIAH!