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Spectrum of Response Styles in a Religious-Orthodox Community to Civilian Disasters: The Responses of the Haredi Community to the Meron Crowd Crush (2021) as a Case Study

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 9190500, Israel
Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem 9222804, Israel
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ono Academic College, Jerusalem 9342187, Israel
Faculty of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 9190500, Israel
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2023, 14(3), 294;
Submission received: 1 January 2023 / Revised: 3 February 2023 / Accepted: 10 February 2023 / Published: 21 February 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Communities)


Over the past few decades the Haredi community has been expanding and it includes a diversity of groups characterized by wide margins, therefore it may be considered an imagined community. On Lag Ba’Omer 2021, 45 people died, and over 150 were injured in the Meron Crowd Crush, most of them from the diverse Haredi community in Israel. Coping with disasters in a religious community includes a religious-faith level, and a social level. In this study, we will examine the response styles to a disaster in the Haredi community, as a case study of religious communities coping with a civilian disaster. This study will assist in understanding the community’s narrative, and the place of the community in coping with a disaster. The study uses the qualitative-constructivist method and applies a categorical analysis of 1146 verbal responses to an internet survey that was conducted subsequent to the disaster. We propose a theoretical-categorical model that divides the responses into five pairs of categories: Emotional, Religious, Spiritual-Transcendental, Social, and Civil responses, each pair divided into past and future. Emotional responses: expressing grief and mourning (past), or paralysis, anxiety, and instability, (future); Religious responses: search for a religious reason (past), or a call for religious strengthening (future); Spiritual-Transcendent responses: dealing with questions of faith (past), or viewing the disaster as a transcendent message, and seeking spiritual comfort (future); Social-Spiritual responses: attributing the disaster to collective punishment due to ‘corruption’ (past), or recommendations for ‘correction’ of the social world (future); Civil responses: including searching for deficiencies, blaming entities (past), or suggestions for improvements and correction of deficiencies (future). We discussed a spectrum of response styles, while distinguishing between responses that are concerned with finding a reason or explanation for the disaster (past), and those who wish to draw a conclusion (future). Furthermore, social injustices are seen as religious offenses that led to the disaster. That is, it is a religious soul-searching that deals, less with traditional offenses and more with social injustices. We also discussed the volume of the different responses: In the emotional reactions and civil reactions, the Past Category is larger than the Future, whereas in the religious and spiritual responses, the Future categories are larger. This finding may symbolize a tendency to channel the pain in a positive way to a practical and active direction. Religious actions provide a sense of agency and self-efficacy. At last, we noticed that the disaster led to the strengthening of the community and sense of community, despite its size and diversity; as well, we suggested that the findings regarding religious-orthodox communities and their coping with disasters can be inferred.

1. Introduction

1.1. Meron Crowd Crush as a Civilian Disaster in Israel

Lag Ba’Omer—18 Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar—is the day of commemorating the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai [Rashbi, 2nd Century C.E]. The custom of making a pilgrimage to the burial place of Rashbi in Meron on the day of Lag Ba’Omer (‘Hilula’) was not practiced until the 16th Century C.E (Simons 1942; Huss 2002). Simons (ibid.) cites the earliest source in which the custom is mentioned in the book Sha’ar HaKavanot (The Gate to Meditation), by Rabbi Chaim Vital [1542–1620 C.E.], one of the students of the Arizal (translated from Hebrew): “A custom that the Jews adopted is to go on Lag Ba’Omer to the gravesite of Rashbi and Rabbi Eliezer his son who are buried in the city of Meron as we know and eat and drink and rejoice there”. Over the years the lighting of bonfires was added to the festival to commemorate the fire, that according to tradition, engulfed Rashbi’s house on the day of his death (Toker 2002). Rabbi Chaim Vital also mentions the children’s first haircuts (‘Halake’) practiced on the day of Lag Ba’Omer in Meron (Benayahu 1962). These customs were preserved and even manifested, and on Lag Ba’Omer, and especially on its eve, Jews customarily go up to Mount Meron, mainly for prayer, spiritual ascension, the lighting of bonfires, celebration, and joy, music and dancing (Benayahu ibid.).
In the last two hundred years, the honor of lighting the main bonfire on the roof of the tomb building in Meron on Lag Ba’Omer belonged to the Admor Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin (1796–1850) and his heirs and successors, the Rabbis of the Boyaner dynasty (Bar 2014). In the last twenty years, additional bonfires were added on Mount Meron, and their amount kept growing over the years. The number of participants in the Hilula also increased over the years, and hundreds of thousands come on Lag Ba’Omer to pray and participate in the festivities of the Hilula by singing and dancing. Following the tradition from the days of the Arizal of giving haircuts (‘Halake’) to three-year-old children during the Hilula, many small children also participate in these celebrations. According to the data of the Ministry of Transport, in 2019 there were approximately 125,000 participants that arrived at the Hilula by public transportation, approximately 40,000 that arrived in organized private shuttles, and approximately 35,000 in private vehicles. That is aside from participants who arrived by foot from the settlement of Meron and nearby settlements, whose number cannot be estimated. Thus, the number of those desiring to come to the Hilula is much greater than the number of participants that the mountain site can safely accommodate at once. Apart from the general over-crowding on the mountain, there are specific centers of density during the Hilula, especially near the tomb and its surroundings, as large crowds desire to enter the gates of the tomb building and pray there (The State Commission of Inquiry into the Mount Meron Disaster 2021). The gathering of the vast amount of people during the Hilula causes congestion and overcrowding on the entire mountain site, and especially during the night hours, thus creating major safety problems on the mountain and its ingress and egress passageways. In addition, the area used for the Hilula contains safety hazards, structural problems, and inadequate infrastructure, which endanger the safety of visitors to the site, both on regular days, and more so during the Hilula, when a large crowd arrives. The Hilula is a complex event, which includes the involvement of many parties including various Hassidic sectors, government officials, the police, fire and rescue services, the Supervisor of Holy Sites, first aid organizations, and more. The preparation for the event requires a comprehensive view, with coordination and cooperation between all those involved (The State Commission of Inquiry into the Mount Meron Disaster 2021). In the years prior to the disaster, various entities warned of serious deficiencies in the safety of Mount Meron. Due to disputes regarding the ownership and management rights of the site, it accumulated deficiencies in the fire extinguishing system, the escape routes, and non-supervised illegal construction. It was forewarned that the maintenance of the place and its infrastructure were not adequate, there were poor access roads to the tomb, and failures were also found in the transportation system to the site on Lag Ba’Omer. All of the aforesaid risked the ability to ensure the safety and health of the visitors of the site, which was not adequately prepared to receive the thousands of visitors and tourists who came to it every day, and in particular on Lag Ba’omer, when hundreds of thousands of visitors arrived (State Comptroller 2008).
On the eve of Lag Ba’Omer 2021, April 30, close to midnight, a disaster occurred during the Hilula, known as the “Meron Crowd Crush”, the greatest civilian disaster in the history of the State of Israel. In this disaster, due to a problematic passageway that was blocked at its exit, and due to the enormous amount of people overcrowded on the passageway and its slippery floor that caused several people to slip, a human avalanche occurred. The slipping, the crowding, and the pressure, caused a crowd crush in which 45 men and children were killed, and more than 150 people were injured. Most of the dead and injured in this disaster are members of the Haredi community in Israel.

1.2. The Haredi Community and Its Characteristics

The Haredi community in Israel is a religious Jewish community that operates as a closed community and has unique characteristics such as halachic orthodoxy, opposition to modernity, secularism and Zionism, and therefore the community closes itself off and differentiates itself from its surroundings, both conceptually and geographically, as well as in the external appearance of its members, by donning unique clothing. The community has several central values, one of which is stringent education for the values of the religion and the community, and therefore the boys and girls of the community are educated solely in the community’s educational institutions. Learning Torah is a top priority, and the community is known as the “Society of Learners” because the members of the community are focused on learning Torah their entire lives, while the women are the breadwinners. In addition, the principle of obeying the opinion of the Torah leaders is also prevalent in this community (Brown 2017).
According to the estimate of the Israel Central Bereau of Statistics, at the end of 2022 the Haredi population in Israel numbered approximately 1,280,000. The Haredi community has the fastest growth rate in developed countries. The annual natural growth rate of the Haredi population is approximately 4.2% per year since 2009, compared to a growth rate of 1.9% of the general population in Israel and 1.4% of the general Jewish population. This rapid growth is due to a combination of a high fertility rate, a young age of marriage and childbirth, and modern medical and living conditions (Malach and Cahaner 2022).
The Haredi community is a movement that emerged in response to the spreading secularism, enlightenment and modernity of 18th-century Europe. The movement promoted the notion of separatism as one of the main ingredients and way of combating the dangers inherent in modernity and secularism (Brown 2017, 2021; Heilman and Friedman 1991). As in Europe before the Holocaust, in Israel too, the Haredi community continued to conduct itself as a separatist community combating secularism and Zionism. However, while in the years subsequent to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 it was a small community, over the years the community grew and expanded greatly. As of the establishment of the State, the proportion of the Haredi community was only approximately 2% of the total adult population in Israel (Friedman 2019). Whereas currently1 they constitute approximately 13.3% of the total population in Israel (Malach and Cahaner 2022). The Haredi community kept growing, both due to a natural increase in births as well as adoptions, a counter-reaction to the attempted extermination of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, and as a result of avoiding family planning. In addition, the community expanded due to the joining of Torah observant Jews from Islamic countries and the addition of secular Jews wishing to adopt the Haredi lifestyle (Baalei Teshuva) to the community over the years (Brown 2017, 2021). Thus, the Haredi community grew and expanded, both numerically, and in terms of the diversity of its population.
In the Haredi community there are three main groups: Lithuanians (also referred to as Ashkenazic), Hassidic, and Sephardic. These three groups are also split within themselves into many groups and sub-groups. The members of the different groups, and in particular the three main groups, study in different educational systems, speak different languages and accents, wear different clothes, and adhere to different customs. Moreso, they almost never marry each other. However, despite these divisions, Haredi Judaism is defined as one social stream (Brown 2017).
From a historical perspective, when the community was small and resided in concentrated areas, it was easier to define it as a community that operates within clear, geographical and ideological boundaries, with interactions between its members. As the community grew and intensified, the Haredi concentrated areas could not contain the community anymore, and today it is spread throughout the entire country, and even exists in small concentrations and within cities with mixed populations (Regev and Gordon 2020), and different and diverse people from different and diverse regions belong to it. Also, the ideology that characterized it at the beginning, took on a different and diverse character by the different groups. Therefore, today, the community is characterized by wide margins (Brown 2021).
A ‘community’ can be defined in different ways. Since it includes a variety of identities, it is appropriate to define the Haredi community broadly as the definition of James and colleagues (James et al. 2012, p. 14): “as a group or network of persons who are connected (objectively) to each other by relatively durable social relations that extend beyond immediate genealogical ties and who mutually define that relationship (subjectively) as important to their social identity and social practice”.
Further, (Anderson [1983] 1991), as a researcher of modern nationalism, coined the concept of an imagined community that describes a large group of people, united around a cohesive idea that causes its members to act as a community, even though in practice the connection and similarity between the individuals or groups that constitute it, are minimal or non-existent. However, the community consciousness is very strong within its members, and they feel a sense of belonging and a shared fate with the larger group even though they are not familiar with nor identify with many of the individuals in it. We would like to argue that the Haredi community behaves similarly to imagined communities. Despite the great diversity between its sub-communities, all of its members feel they belong to it, and feel a shared fate with its members, despite the cultural and ideological gaps and even the disputes among the different groups.

1.3. The Haredi Community and Coping with Disasters

A civilian disaster is an event that catches the community unprepared, it is viewed as a crisis, and coping with it on the individual and community levels is complex. There is a wide range of methods of coping with a disaster. For instance, searching for a mechanism of cause and effect is a natural human response to disasters. A modern person whose worldview is scientific, may search for a scientific reason, a religious person may seek in addition to, or as a sole resort, a religious reason and be satisfied with it, while an individual who experiences the world as spiritual, will look for a transcendental reason. Indeed, religious beliefs and rituals have been shown to be important coping mechanisms (Park 2005). Douglas (2013) claims that the way a culture perceives the world and the cosmos manages its perception relating to risks. Religious groups view world events as influenced by the actions of humans, and therefore connect sins with disasters, while secular cultures do not make such a connection. Therefore, moral behavior and taking community responsibility in religious societies will be expressed through religious-moral behavior, so as to positively affect the world and prevent disasters. Placing blame and liability on bodies, people or situations, and alternatively taking the blame, is also a way of dealing with a disaster (Delahanty et al. 1997). Blame-seeking expresses a position that the disaster was preventable and is the result of civil or religious negligence or imprudence. In addition, there is a wide range of emotional responses when coping with a disaster.
The Haredi community, being a social community on the one hand, and a religious community on the other hand, needs to deal with disasters from two aspects: the religious-faith aspect, and the social aspect. A study that examined the response of Haredi survivors of terrorist attacks in Israel found that their narratives reflected an unshakable belief in divine providence, reward and punishment, even when they do not comprehend the ‘reckoning of Heaven’. Their responses reflected an effort to reconcile their traumatic experience with the beliefs upon which they were raised, as an instinctive attempt to find a reason for the traumatic event, or alternatively, as an attempt to give up the search for reasons, through the concept that ‘we do not understand the reckoning of Heaven’. These attempts illustrate a new version of post-traumatic guilt that researchers refer to as faith-preserving or identity-preserving guilt. Such guilt stems from the need to preserve, despite the trauma, the spectrum of beliefs, and the belief in constant divine providence. In order to maintain this worldview, it seems that there is a tendency among the Haredi population to take personal responsibility following disasters, and a tendency to self-blame. Therefore, higher levels of PTSD symptoms are viewed within this community (Ankri et al. 2010). In relation to the Holocaust, the greatest disaster experienced by Haredi Judaism, the community had to deal with theological questions. Its prevailing position was that it was a decree of Heaven, a divine decision, and direct divine involvement, all on the basis of the belief in general and personal divine providence. Another position is that of ‘Hester Panim’ (concealed divine providence) (Schweid 1994). Another theological approach to disasters prevalent in the Haredi society is by looking for a religious reason for the disaster, which is caused, according to the belief, as a result of sins.
From the social aspect, according to the Terror Management Theory (Greenberg et al. 1986) in order to deal with a threat, the person attempts to be valuable in the group to which he belongs, and his coping strategy includes adopting the group’s system of beliefs and values. In such a way the individual identifies more strongly with the group and with his sense of belonging to it. In general, belonging to a group provides a sense of stability. Thus, a disaster and coping with it strengthens and even creates group cohesion. Indeed, it was found that the Haredi society supports each other when coping with disasters (Ankri et al. 2010). Moreover, in a study dealing with the Haredi society in Israel coping with the Corona crisis (Black et al. 2022), it was found that although the crisis was experienced by the community as a group trauma, the community experienced a high level of Community Post-traumatic Growth following the crisis. It was also found (ibid.) that the more a person identified himself as Haredi, the more he believed that the community experienced growth in the face of the crisis. This finding reflects the important role that the community plays in the lives of the Haredi society, and that the members of the community feel a significant sense of belonging to it, especially in times of distress, where they relate to the threat upon the community as a personal threat. Furthermore, the Haredi community has a narrative of oppression and a sense of inferiority and discrimination, which unites the community in times of crisis and strengthens the sense of belonging. The opposition against those outside the community, unites the individuals in it (Bergman et al. 2017). It appears that indeed adversity is what unites the community, also in an imagined community.
In an opinion piece Levy (2021) presented the attitude of the Haredi newspapers versus the secular newspapers in Israel to the Meron Crowd Crush. While the secular press expressed a demand for taking responsibility, correcting deficiencies and blaming, the Haredi press treated the disaster with religious-faith tools. In this article, we would like to examine a wider spectrum of Haredi responses to the Meron Crowd Crush.

2. Lacking Literature and Research Questions

Based on a thorough review that we conducted, it appears that there are no research works relating to the Meron Crowd Crush except for one academic article that deals with the aspect of emergency medical services (Daniel et al. 2022). Furthermore, research relating to disasters in the Haredi community and their coping with such disasters is scarce, and additionally, we did not find any research that examines the spectrum of response styles to disasters in the Haredi community.
In light of the unique characteristics of the Haredi community, we would like to examine the response patterns of the Haredi society to a civilian disaster that affected many members of the community. The Meron crowd crash will serve as a case study for a civilian disaster, through which we will examine the responses of the Haredi community to disasters. The response styles assist in comprehending the community’s narrative, and the community’s place in coping with a disaster. As priorly mentioned, we seek to define the Haredi community as an imagined community (Anderson [1983] 1991), consisting of various communities, and based on this assumption to examine its conduct at times of crisis. In addition, the Haredi community will be used as a case study, through which we will seek to learn about the response styles of religious-orthodox communities to civilian disasters. The uniqueness of the research is that it is conducted very close to the occurrence of the disaster, between one to five days after the crowd crush, when the painful feelings are still fresh and therefore the research surfaces authentic feelings. The research questions that emerge from the aforesaid are: What are the response styles to the Meron crowd crash in the Haredi community? And what are the most common response styles? The hypothesis is that a significant portion of the responses will deal with religious or spiritual coping, since this is a religious community, and in some of them will be an expression of the adoption of a modern lifestyle and worldview, since the Haredi community has adopted modern lifestyles in recent decades. In addition, it is hypothesized that these responses will be an expression of the unification and its reinforcement.

3. Methodology

In order to answer the research question, we used the results of an internet survey that dealt with various aspects of the Meron Crowd Crush in the days following the disaster. The survey included an open question that dealt with the emotions following the disaster, to which we applied a thematic analysis.

3.1. Research Tool

A survey was published by the survey system of the Real-Time Data institute on the Haredi (Israeli) website Kikar HaShabbat, commencing on the morning after the night of the crowd crush, and was available to participants from 2–6 May 2021, the results of which formed the database for this study. The survey included2, apart from demographic questions, ten closed questions on several topics: standpoint relating to the Meron Crowd Crush, other disasters or events that involve risk, safety and risk prevention, and standpoint relating to emergency and rescue organizations. Besides these questions, the participants were offered an optional open question, that was not a mandatory question, where the participants were asked to describe their feelings regarding the Meron Crowd Crush. The question was: “Would you like to briefly describe your feelings following the disaster?” This question allowed the participants of the survey to express their feelings regarding the tragedy. The proximity to the disaster and the fact that the pain was fresh, allows us to learn about the initial, raw, and instinctive feelings in relation to the disaster, before they underwent mental processing or complex thought processes.3 Thus, the closeness to the disaster gives the results at hand significant validity, since we are dealing with authentic feelings.

3.2. Participants

The study population consisted of 2753 Israeli Haredi individuals who participated in the survey. This sample includes a representation of all the main groups of the Haredi community in Israel, and their characteristics are similar to the characteristics of the general Haredi community. Initially, 6090 individuals participated in the survey, of which 3343 responded to the survey in full. Apart from the participants who did not fully complete the survey, we excluded from the data set the survey replies of 433 participants who were less than 17 years old (for ethical reasons of lack of parental approval), and 38 participants who were older than 85 years old (for fear of reliability). We also excluded the survey replies of 119 participants who indicated in the “sub-sector” category that they are not Haredi. The final number after the aforesaid exclusions equals 2753 participants. 986 of these participants (36%) answered the open question.
The sectorial division of the participants resembles the sectorial division of the general Haredi community.4 32% of the participants are Hassidic (N = 877, of which 191 are from the Habbad sector), 31% are Sephardic (N = 867), 29% Lithuanian (N = 788), and the rest (8%, N = 221) defined themselves as “Other”; 52% of the participants (N = 1429) are men, and 48% (N = 1323) are women; the age in the sample ranges from 17 to 82. The average age is 33, and the median age is 30. Of those who responded to the open question (N = 986, about 36% of the total sample), approximately 29.5% are Hassidic (N = 290, of which 63 are from the Habbad sector), 36% Sephardim (N = 359), 26.5% Lithuanians (N = 261), and 8% “other” (N = 75); 51% men (N = 501) and 49% women (N = 485); The age of the participants that responded to the open question ranges from 17 to 81, the average age is 32.5, and the median age is 30.
Most of the participants (74%, N = 2031) were closely acquainted with someone who was at the Meron Crowd Crush. Around 10% of the participants were themselves present at the event (N = 272), around 50% of them knew a person who was at the event (49%, N = 1361), 26% knew a person who was injured in the event (N = 705), and about 16% knew a person from the emergency forces that operated at the crowd crush (N = 443). Of those that responded to the open question, 12% were themselves present at the scene of the disaster (N = 117), 48% knew a person who was at the event (N = 473), 27% knew a person who was injured in the disaster (N = 267), and about 17% knew a person from the emergency forces who operated at the scene (N = 168). It appears that those who chose to answer the open question had a slightly higher acquaintance with the disaster or its victims than the other participants, and this emotional involvement may have been one of the reasons for responding. In addition, relatively speaking, Sephardic individuals were more likely to answer this question as compared to Lithuanians and Hassidic individuals, women more than men, and younger participants more than older ones.

3.3. Data Analysis

In order to understand the response styles of Haredi individuals to the Meron disaster based on all the verbal responses we received, we chose the categorization method of analysis and application of the qualitative constructivist approach. The process of finding meaning through categorization is a process of interpretation (Gall et al. 1996). The categorial division offers a conceptual structure and discovery of meaning (Shkedi 2003). Creating categories in a qualitative-constructive analysis requires that each piece of data fall into one of the categories. In such an analysis, the categories are laden with meaning when they are compared to other categories. Thus, they have an internal aspect: meaning in relation to all the data, and an external aspect: they have meaning in relation to the other categories. In this process, the information is analyzed into parts, it is sorted into separate categories, but it also exists as a stand-alone unit, since the categories complement each other to constitute one whole (Shkedi 2003).
After an initial reading of all the responses we received, we recognized that they can be divided into categories, pursuant to which we decided to code the answers. In the first step, we coded a sample of about 10% of all the responses. During the coding, we refined the categories, narrowed down some of them, and expanded others, in order to arrive at a comprehensive yet efficient model. A model capable of providing maximum information with minimum cognitive effort (Rosch 1988). Thus, we have created in this categorical division a new Grounded theory (Martin and Turner 1986).
Since we are dealing with verbal, emotional responses, which are at times not equivocal, we were required to establish for ourselves a number of thumb rules for coding. First, we avoided interpreting or imposing meaning on responses that can have two implications. Secondly, most of the responses were assigned, each to one category, however, responses that contained more than one aspect were assigned to two categories. This occurred with 208 out of 986 verbal answers. For an answer that contained more than two aspects, we utilized the two most dominant ones. Subsequent to this division there were 1194 responses. Of these, 48 responses were meaningless. Thus, we were left with 1146 responses, which we analyzed. The data collection and processing procedure met the criteria of research ethics. The participants indicated their consent to participate in the study, after being assured of anonymity.5

4. Results

In order to answer the research questions “What are the response styles to the Meron crowd crash in the Haredi community” and “what are the most common response styles?” we categorized 1146 responses received for the survey question “Would you like to briefly describe your feelings following the disaster?”. We sorted the responses into ten categories, which we organized into three clusters: a cluster of emotional responses, which included mainly an emotional expression; a cluster of religious or spiritual responses, expressing a religious or spiritual view of the disaster and using religious or spiritual terminology; and a cluster of civil responses, which expressed reference to the disaster through a view of external factors or human actions related to the disaster. It should be noted that the responses were all in Hebrew, and the quoted responses reflect a true to the source translation to English. As shown below (Figure 1) the majority of responses (56% of all responses) are emotional responses (N = 645), less than a third (28% of the responses) are religious or spiritual responses (N = 323), and the minority of responses (about 16%) are civil responses (N = 178).
The ten categories are symmetrically divided into two, five of which express reference to the past, and five with a view to the future. In the cluster of emotional reactions there are two categories: past and future. In the cluster of spiritual-religious responses there are six categories, two express a religious aspect: one in relation to the past and one in relation to the future, two express a spiritual-transcendent aspect: past and future, and two express a social-spiritual aspect: past and future. Likewise, in the cluster of civil responses there are two categories: past and future. The division into past and future categories makes it possible to expand the diagnosis of the various responses. The vertical division into past and future, using a uniform principle, helps the model to be simple and efficient (Rosch 1988), and the categories complement each other into one whole (Shkedi 2003). However, in each pair of categories the meaning of past-future is slightly different. For example, in the emotional responses, the division between past and future is not absolute, as follows.
The past category in the emotional responses cluster (Category 1) included feelings of sadness, grief, frustration and helplessness in the face of the disaster and its dimensions, such as “a sense of sadness, loss and difficulty”, and feelings of frustration and helplessness such as: “hard feelings […] lack of control”, “a feeling of suffocating, pressure and stomach pains”, “a difficult feeling of misunderstanding” and even “universal horror resembles the terrible holocaust”. The future category (Category 2) included a description of a feeling of paralysis, feelings of fear, panic, and even anxiety, which reflect the effect of the experience on the ensuing days after the event, such as: “broken and torn. crying a lot during the day” or “unable to do anything, walking around for 5 days with a lack of concentration, working like a robot, I’m in Jerusalem and my heart is there on the stairs … I have to go there to cry on the stairs, it’s my brothers who died there, it’s my flesh and blood”. The participant was not present at the disaster nor does he know anyone who was injured there, and his response sharpens the sense of brotherhood and community created by the disaster. In the responses in this category, there are expressions of concern regarding the future, such as: “I am in pain and afraid of the next disaster”. For the most part, the responses in this category reflected a more difficult emotion than in the past category. An emotion that affects the continuation of a normal routine life and a feeling that life has stopped, such as: “the heart is crushed, the pain is too deep to bear, unable to return to the routine of life”. Furthermore, it included descriptions of difficulty to sleep or function, such as these responses: “I can’t sleep. I’ve tried to drive a car without success to date. Unable to take care of my baby”; “I can’t sleep at night, I lost my appetite, my heart beats like I don’t know what, I have no strength for anything!!!” or “I’m very frightened. I’m as tense as a spring. I haven’t slept for several nights. I’m afraid of the noise of the air conditioner”, and a feeling of instability such as “I can’t relax and would like to receive psychological therapy”.
In the cluster of the religious-spiritual responses and the civil responses, responses that refer to the past, for the most part, express an attempt to understand the cause of the event or to place responsibility for the disaster on actions or situations of various kinds, and even to cast blame upon such. In contrast, responses with a view to the future express a search for correction, and even a proactive and practical approach, such as suggestions for taking measures to prevent other disasters and correcting deficiencies both in the religious aspect, or by corrections to the technical, institutional or policy procedures that will prevent the recurrence of a similar disaster. As mentioned, the cluster of religious and spiritual responses is divided into three, as well as to past and future. The first pair of responses includes a religious aspect to the disaster, makes use of religious-Jewish concepts, and mainly refers to the realm of halacha, commandments and transgressions. The category of the past (Category 3) is mainly a search for religious reasons for the disaster, or an attempt to find a religious explanation for it, or viewing it as a message from Heaven: “Almighty sends us messages time and time again and reminds us who is the Ruler of the world”; “I think this disaster happened because this whole generation has gone down in spirituality and probably God wanted to shake us”. The responses in this category described the disaster as being caused by transgressions, such as: “I felt that maybe because I was disparaging or ‘lenient’ I had a part in the death of these righteous people”. There are those who blamed the disaster on specific transgressions: “In my opinion, it happened because of a lack of modesty, and all the rabbis need to wake up and say that women shouldn’t be there, only men, and in my opinion the disaster would have been avoided”. There are also those who blamed others for causing the disaster due to their sins: “I am full of anger at the immodesty in Tel-Aviv and the lust parties, We got the punishment and they continue to have fun”. The future category (Category 4) included responses dealing with the need for religious strengthening required due to the disaster, strengthening mainly in the observance of practical mitzvot (commandments), and a call for ‘reflection’: “This is a sign of awakening and reflection”; “a horrific disaster that has come to shake us to wake up and strengthen ourselves” or “the disaster made me want to strengthen myself and be more careful about the mitzvot (commandments) I already observe”. Some of the responses in this category included suggestions for practical corrections, such as: “We need to urgently repent” and in more specific detail “Everyone must strengthen themselves in what they can, especially in guarding one’s eyes and tongue and Torah study of yeshiva students”; “We need complete separation in the site between men and women and we need music and singers without any external element” or: “A strong feeling that God wants something from us… and that everyone should strengthen themselves in faith and trust and in the love for God”.
The second pair of responses in the cluster of religious and spiritual responses dealt with a spiritual-transcendent aspect of the disaster. The responses included concepts of transcendental and even mystical thinking, and cross-religious spiritual concepts, practice of faith, and eschatology, through which the event can be understood. The past category (Category 5) includes responses that seek to find a solution and reason for the disaster through spiritual tools, for example: “This is a disaster by God’s hand. As well, it could not have been prevented” or “It’s really scary, but I know that if they had to die, they would have died also due to other things”, and even “a terrible feeling, something heavenly scary is raging”. Some of the responses dealt with faith from two point-views. On the one hand, responses that seek not to doubt rather to accept the decree. Among the responses in this category, the following phrases were prevalent: “everything is from Heaven”, “one must not doubt”, “va-yidom Aharon (Aaron was silent)” “public sacrifices” or “a hidden face”, such as in these responses: “a difficult feeling of misunderstanding. Vayidom Aharon is what I have to say at the moment”; “everything is from Heaven and you may not doubt though it is difficult and you want to understand” or: “I believe that everything is for the best and everything is from Heaven and God knows what he is doing”. On the other hand, there are responses that express a belief-existential difficulty, as in these responses: “where is God?”; “questions in faith”, or “asking with immense fear why are the Jews sentenced to such a harsh decree?”. The future category (Category 6) included referring to the disaster as a message from Heaven for a positive demand, and attempts to understand such, as: “God wants something from us, he didn’t do it for nothing”, or: “I feel that God is trying to tell us something but we don’t understand”. Other responses note ways of preventing other disasters through transcendental actions. Some of them are pessimistic and gloomy, such as: “in my opinion, what happened is the last traffic light before terrible disasters if we do not urgently change our approach”. Several of the responses dealt with prayer, yearning for redemption or Messiah, such as: “I want redemption now. Enough of tragedies” or “Unfathomable. We need Messiah!”. A number of responses were engaged in seeking spiritual comfort for the disaster: “God will comfort the bereaved families and will soon send complete healing to all the wounded at the coming of the Messiah, Amen and Amen” or “it can be ‘understood’ in other words be felt that this is to bring salvation closer, the ways of God are hidden”.
The third pair of responses in the cluster of religious and spiritual responses dealt with a social-spiritual aspect while attributing a spiritual-transcendent meaning to social conduct. The past category (Category 7) included a description of a defective social situation, social ‘corruption of the world’, and the blaming of the public and its poor social conduct such that it led to collective punishment by an act of God, such as: “I’m convinced it’s because of the disputes”; “A terrible decree for all the disgracing of God’s name that happened recently in Ponevezh”;6 Or “when Jews wearing a kippah abuse each other. The different communities push and kill each other”. In another response, the participant detailed a series of defective social behaviors, the main ones being discord, sectarian discrimination, and the trampling of others that led to the disaster, according to him: “Haredi Judaism is going bankrupt”. This response as well as others can be seen as an attempt to find fault with certain people such as: “The rabbis and educators and founders of the Haredi society failed and they will bear the blame”; “Even the demonstrations in Jerusalem, the members of ‘HaPeleg HaYerushalmi’ should stop with their disputes”. There were also ‘knowledgeable’ responses that described in detail a mechanism that acted, according to their author, as an accusatory heavenly voice, such as this detailed response: “It is known from the holy books that the sin of the calf and the sin of selling Joseph act as an accusatory heavenly voice in every generation, especially when they are guilty of these sins. It is no secret that the sin of Josephs’ sale of thousands of Josephs of kidnapping and selling the children of Yemenites, those from the mid-west and Balkans, were committed a generation ago and all the religious political parties had a hand in such. For the stealing and selling souls the punishment is death by strangulation. The 45 martyrs who were killed in Lag Ba’Omer died by strangulation and they are atonement for the whole generation that did not protest”. The future category (Category 8) dealt with recommendations for social ‘Tikun Olam’ and improving social conduct. “This is a sign from Heaven for each person to wake up, strengthen itself in unity and to love each other. It is impossible to remain the same as we were. God isn’t speaking to us, He is shouting at us!! And if we don’t change, who knows what will happen”. An example of more detailed responses: “God has called us through reality to improve in unwarranted love. That will be expressed both in the attitude of the Haredi society towards the police, and in the relationships of the politicians towards each other”. “The Creator of the world is giving a clear message. Stop suspecting the righteous. Anyone who suspects the righteous may be injured. Stop the discrimination and unwarranted hatred. Stop putting pressure on others to achieve your goals!” More practical recommendations were given in responses such as: “There should be a global initiative of forgiveness between friends during the seven days of mourning, that each and every person should make up with two men/women that it may be that he bears some grudges against them, pick up the phone and make up” Another response justifies the timing of the correction “Naturally, after the disaster passes, we forget and the emotion fades. We must make sure that this does not happen and revive the feelings within us and accept upon ourselves a commitment for improvement, one small thing that will stay with us forever”.
In the cluster of civil responses, the past category (Category 9) dealt with the search for structural and organizational deficiencies or those responsible for the disaster: “immense frustration over the negligence” or “It’s unbelievable that that’s how things went, although it’s all in the hands of Heaven, but they were supposed to make sure there was a reasonable amount of people and that there should not be such terrible crowding” The responses noted organizations or individuals whose actions or omissions caused the disaster. There was a tendency to blame state and police officials, with responses such as “police crime”; “enough with the cynic charlatanism on the mountain”. The responses expressed also an attribution of malicious intentions, such as: “During the Corona, the police did a lot of damage to the Haredi society and this also continued to Meron murder and obscenity” or “lack of thought […] and wickedness led to the death of people”. There were even conspiratorial reactions7 such as “shock, a deliberate action by the authorities” or “they created it on purpose”. On the other hand, there was also a tendency to blame Haredi officials “Haredi elected politicians are unprofessional and do not really care about the safety of the society they represent” or “the problem is that wherever there are askanim (community activists) there is a disruption of order”. Blame was also placed on the Haredi society and its conduct “The Haredi society is not disciplined […] there are anarchist movements in the Haredi society. As well, they are managed by Babas. (mystical rabbis)” In these responses, there was a tendency to passivity. On the other hand, there were responses that spoke against blaming, such as: “I don’t like that people directly look for the guilty, one has to first digest the pain, and the truth is, not always there is someone guilty”, in other words, a conscious attempt is being made to cope with the instinct that seeks comfort by searching for the guilty. The future category (Category 10) included suggestions for general or practical improvements. In these responses, a tendency to activism was expressed, and there was a call for action and initiative such as fixing deficiencies in Mount Meron: “privatization of Mount Meron urgently”, and more detailed proposals, such as: “it is a must to significantly limit entry, in order to prevent insane pressure”; “In my opinion, everything should be moved to Jerusalem or other places, in Meron—only Rabbi Shimon is needed and not any other Admor or leader—as righteous as he may be”; “a solution needs to be found for ingress and egress from a completely different place, and it should be prohibited that single boys and girls arrive, due to the overcrowding” or “We need those leaders that knew how to lower the excitement of people to go to Meron, as the great leaders practice, like HaRav Ovadia who said to go at another time, and not on this day”. Other responses seek, as conclusions from this disaster, to introduce safety procedures in other places as well: “it is sufficient to visit Bnei Brak and see the danger on the sidewalks, stairs, and roads, everything is dilapidated patch upon patch and no one says anything, nobody really cares!!!!” or “to create conversation circles within the Haredi society. There is so much in common … I am not busy with questions, but with the search for an appropriate action that will be worthy and powerful as the magnitude of the disaster”. There were also voices that called for cooperation with the State: “It is the duty of the Haredi society to recognize that it is not possible to live as we did 50 years ago, we must recognize the authority and disallow unsafe events” or “soul-searching is required in the Haredi society regarding their trust in the law enforcement system and not to say in all instances that they hate the Haredi society because if it weren’t for the fear of the government, one would swallow his brother alive”. In other responses, there was a demand to investigate the incident. “Government Committee of Investigation”; “The feeling is that those who yanked off the security cameras should not control […] and a lesson needs to be learned and not to deny reality”. The below table (Table 1) portrays the model of the categorization of the response styles of the Haredi society to the Meron Crowd Crush.
As specified above, most of the responses received are emotional responses. 29% of all the responses received (N = 333) were categorized in the Past category in the cluster of Emotional Responses (Category 1 in Figure 2 below), and 27% of the responses (N = 312) in the Future category in the cluster of Emotional Responses (Category 2). The cluster of Religious-Spiritual Responses in the Past category of the Religious Aspect (Category 3) reflects 1% of the responses (N = 11), and the Future category (Category 4) reflects 7% of the responses (N = 81). The Past category of the Spiritual-Transcendent Aspect (Category 5) includes 8% of the responses (N = 87), and the future category (Category 6) includes 7% (N = 75). The Past category of the Spiritual-Social Aspect (Category 7) constitutes 2% of the participants (N = 21), and the future category (Category 8) constitutes 4% of the participants (N = 48). The Past category of the cluster of Civil Responses (Category 9) includes 11% of the responses (N = 122), and the Future category (Category 10) includes 5% of all the responses (N = 56).
The number of responses in the categories referring to the past (1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) is close to the number of responses in the categories referring to the future (2, 4, 6, 8 and 10) (49% compared to 51% of all responses). In the cluster of Emotional Responses, the Past category (Category 1; 29%) is larger than the Future category (Category 2; 27%). In the cluster of Religious and Spiritual Responses, the Past categories (Category 3, 5, and 7; 11%) are smaller than the Future categories (Category 4, 6 and 8; 18%), and in the cluster of Civil Responses, the category of the Past (Category 9; 11%) is larger than the Future category (Category 10; 5%). The pairs of categories in which there is a significant gap between Past responses and Future responses are Categories 3 and 4, Categories 7 and 8, and Categories 9 and 10. Category 3, which deals with religiosity in the past, is very small (1%), compared to Category 4, which deals with the future, which is larger (7%). Category 8, which refers to the Social-Spiritual Aspect and deals with the future, is twice as large as Category 7, which deals with the past. Lastly, Category 9, which contains Civil Responses in relation to the past, is twice as large as Category 10, which deals with the future.
We note that aside from the categories presented above, there were also responses that reflected the need to share a personal experience stemming from being at the event. Other responses included appreciation for the rescue forces, or expressed positive feelings in relation to special human conduct and mutual camaraderie in various aspects of the event, or positive emotions with regard to Acts of God.

5. Discussion

This study sought to examine the response styles to the Meron Crowd Crush in the Haredi community and the most common response styles. In the results section, we proposed a model that categorizes the responses into ten categories of responses organized horizontally into three clusters: emotional responses, religious or spiritual responses, and civil responses. Vertically, the categories are divided into two, the first half expressing reference to the past, and the second half with a reference to the future. In the cluster of emotional responses there are two categories: past and future; In the cluster of spiritual-religious responses there are six categories, two express a religious aspect: one in relation to the past and one in relation to the future, two express a spiritual-transcendent aspect: past and future, and two express a social-spiritual aspect: past and future; lastly, in the cluster of civil responses there are two categories: past and future. In this model, the categories complement each other into one complete whole (Shkedi 2003). The discussion will address three topics: (1) the spectrum of response styles (2) strengthening the community and the sense of community following the disaster. (3) the impact of the results on religious-orthodox communities and their coping with disasters.

5.1. Spectrum of Response Styles

It seems that all the responses stem from the need to face the incomprehensible and unfathomable and the attempt to make it bearable. In this sense, there is a common denominator to all the responses, whether it is an attempt to find causality, religious, spiritual or civil meaning or blame, or whether through sharing feelings, which has a therapeutic dimension that makes the pain bearable. It surfaced during the categorization of the responses, that more than half of the responses were emotional responses. An emotional response is an expected human response to such a disaster, and therefore it outnumbered the other response styles. Understandably, and since the Haredi community is founded on religious and spiritual values, a considerable number of responses, of almost a third of all responses were religious or spiritual, regarding which we would like to expand the discussion. Religiosity and spirituality are distinct from each other, although many times they overlap or are perceived as overlapping. Although spirituality is sometimes associated with religion, and is observed in a religious context, it is not necessarily related to religion. Spirituality, which is associated with the soul, metaphysical qualities, or experiences, does not always coincide with religion, which is mainly law, and halachic practice (Gado Forthcoming). It is customary to refer to the Haredi community as a religious-halachic community, however, the research findings showed that responses of a spiritual-transcendent nature were more prevalent than responses that contained religious-practical elements in coping with the disaster (21% compared to 8% of all responses). Perhaps in times of trouble and crisis, the tendency is to turn to spiritual channels more than to religious channels, in particular as a search for comfort. Category 3, which refers to the past, and primarily reflects a search for religious reasons for the disaster in the form of transgressions, was particularly small. This finding is perplexing, since in the Haredi community there is a tendency to attribute religious reasons to disasters (El-Or 1993; Ankri et al. 2010). Furthermore, the Jewish tradition requires a religious person not to attribute disasters to chance, but to see them as a warning or punishment for sins, as Rambam (2017) says (translated from Hebrew) (Hilchot Ta’aniyot, Chapter 1 Halachah 2, p. 668): “All should know that it is due to their bad deeds that mishaps have occurred to them”. In the next halacha, the Rambam writes that attributing adversities to the ‘natural course of events’ is considered cruel because it prevents people from learning their lesson and implementing necessary religious improvement, and further disasters may be caused until the lesson is internalized. It is possible that due to the proximity of the survey to the disaster, this tendency to attribute a religious cause was abandoned for other forms of coping, which also operate according to the logic of the religious mechanism, such as directing self-criticism to the transcendent or social-spiritual level, which is based on the logic of ‘measure-for-measure’ and learning spiritual-social lessons. On the other hand, Category 4, which deals with the future and deals with a call for ‘soul searching’, religious strengthening, and observance of mitzvot (commandments), is larger.
Categories 7–8 that view the disaster with a social-spiritual perspective is a unique finding in our research that we seek to highlight. In another study (Shuman 2021), which dealt with the COVID-19 crisis in the Haredi community, a similar coping method was found that linked the epidemic to the poor social relations in the community. An attempt was made to stop the epidemic through a spiritual-social strengthening of avoiding gossip and defamation in social networks, and increasing social cohesion and mutual caring within the community. An attempt was made to stop the epidemic through a spiritual-social strengthening of avoiding gossip and defamation in social networks, and increasing social cohesion and mutual caring within the community. We would like to explain the socio-spiritual reactions theoretically. There is a significant religious aspect to these responses, which is not the classic religious causality of violating religious laws, but social injustices that are formulated here as a spiritual defect that is perceived as the cause of the disaster. These responses can be explained with the help of the sociologist Peter Berger (2012) who proposes an addendum to a theory of pluralization: “A default secular discourse co-exists with a plurality of religious discourses, both in society and in consciousness”. persons successfully switch between secular and religious definitions of reality. That is, religious people overload the religious structures with new meanings and ‘justify’ the cause of the disaster with a social injustice for which ‘punishment’ is due. As we see in the aforementioned responses, the religious conception is loaded with social meaning, according to Berger, life in the modern world allows people to relate to reality on several levels. so that religious people can look at reality from a religious dimension, alongside a ‘secular’ perspective. Berger called it the ‘Default Discourse’: One reference to reality would be “naturally”, even by religious individuals, before they deliberately switch to relating to it in their particular “supernatural” reference.
In general, in the cluster of emotional reactions and civil reactions, the Past Category is larger than the Future, whereas in the cluster of religious and spiritual responses, the Future categories are larger. This finding may symbolize a tendency to channel the pain in a positive way to a practical and active direction, actions that are perceived as such as having a positive effect and will assist with coping with the pain arising from the disaster. These actions provide a sense of agency, self-efficacy, and a belief in one’s own ability to influence the course of events based on those actions. This is in contrast to the civil responses, in which there was more of a tendency towards passivity. This finding may teach us that in the Haredi community, there is a feeling that religious or spiritual actions that take place in the spiritual world have a greater effect, and the capacity for correction, than practical corrections in the world of action. Moreover, the sense of agency is acquired at a greater degree by religious or spiritual actions than by civil actions. This assertation can also serve as an explanation for the fact that the cluster of religious and spiritual reactions is significantly larger than the cluster of civil reactions.

5.2. Strengthening the Community and the Sense of Community following the Disaster

Levy (2021) claims that the reason crowds visit Meron on Lag Ba’omer is not a desire to do what is good and right in the eyes of God, but a more primal desire: the desire to be lost in the crowd and feel the tremendous power of belonging to the tribe. He draws a comparison between the Hillula and the totem concept (Durkheim 1915) due to its concentration of the public in one sacred place and time. In doing so, it intensifies the existence of the community and strengthens it. The moment the bonfire is lit is a moment when the crowd transforms from individuals to “we”, from individuals to a tribe, a being that is greater than the sum of its parts. If we continue Levi’s principle, a disaster in such a significant event has communal significance. The Meron disaster is a communal disaster. The dead and injured in the disaster represented all the groups of the Haredi community in Israel. Our sample, which represents the Haredi spectrum, shows that most of them were personally acquainted with the disaster, so they are under one common denominator. Therefore, the way of dealing with the disaster is also communal and not individual. The responses received, even from those who did not know the victims and were not directly related to the disaster, expressed caring, involvement, and pain. The community, solidarity and high emotional involvement were very present in the responses and they symbolize community cohesion and high community commitment.
In the introduction, we described the Haredi community as growing and expanding geographically, while including a multiplicity of groups and ideologies whose common mechanisms are less prevalent, to the extent that it can be described as an imagined community consisting of several communities. Yet it appears that through the disaster the community intensifies and achieves clarity. The community-wide common denominator and the community and community scope are refined. In addition, the sense of community also intensifies. This feeling consists of four elements: friendship, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and a common emotional connection (McMillan and Chavis 1986). It appears that all the aforesaid four elements were present in the responses of the Haredi society to the Meron Crowd Crush.

5.3. Impact of the Results on Religious-Orthodox Communities and Their Coping with Disasters

We propose to apply the model we found to other civilian disasters, in order to understand how religious-orthodox communities cope with them. The same goes for the claim that coping with a community disaster strengthens the sense of community and solidarity. In groups that experience a sense of discrimination in relation to the majority group, disasters strengthen the group’s self-unity.
We suggest that the cluster of religious responses is not unique only to the Haredi community, but rather to other religious-orthodox communities in their coping with disasters or crises. Since, as mentioned, it is human nature to look for causality and a solution to disasters, religious-orthodox communities will try to find them with religious or spiritual tools. Some of the blaming answers in the Past Categories 3 and 7 described in a confident and knowledgeable manner the religious and spiritual reasons that, according to their authors, caused the disaster. It is possible that this style of knowledgeable responses depends on personal character, and it is also possible that they arise from religious-orthodox characteristics, and are conducted according to a theological ethos according to which a disaster must have a religious and social meaning. It appears, then, that we may find responses of this type in various and diverse religious-orthodox communities. Similarly, we may find responses similar to that of the religious cluster that expressed blame or placing responsibility on others: people, institutions, or leaders, rather than self-criticism or introspection.
The total rate of responses in the religious and spiritual cluster did not exceed 28%. It is possible that this finding expresses the penetration of modern thinking into the Hardi community, as is the case in other religious-orthodox communities, which operate in a modern world, even if they disapprove of it. Following the adoption of this way of thought, these communities place important weight on causality and meaning that is not solely religious.

6. Research Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research

The main contribution of the research is the actual categorial division and the analysis of the responses. A more in-depth processing of the results will deepen the understanding of them, as I found (Gado Forthcoming) in the categorization by gender, that women are dominant in the categories concerning a religious aspect (Category 3 and 4) and spiritual-transcendent referefishnce (Category 5 and 6), compared to men, who are dominant in civil responses. These findings add significant insights to this model. Therefore, it is feasible that future research deepens the understanding of the findings we have. It is appropriate to characterize the participants in each of the response categories, and to examine how the response styles of Haredi society to the Meron Crowd Crush are distributed in different age groups, in the sub-groups of the Haredi community. It is also appropriate to examine the distribution of responses according to the parameter of presence at the site of disaster or familiarity with those present and affected by the disaster, and according to other parameters. We would also recommend performing a qualitative content analysis for the responses. Another aspect that deserves a deeper examination is the blaming of the state and the police that surfaced in the responses, and which may be related to the feeling of discrimination (Bergman et al. 2017) and the opposition to the state that exists in the Haredi community (Brown 2017).
The study is not without limitations. The sampling is neither random nor probabilistic, rather a sampling of volunteers, who may have unique personality characteristics. In the present study, there is a double element of volunteer, in the actual participation in the survey, and in the response to the open question, which was presented as a non-mandatory question. Furthermore, although the sample aims to represent the entire Haredi community, the sample includes Haredi individuals that have internet access and therefore have accessed the Kikar HaShabbat website for responding to the survey, something that is not accepted by the entire Haredi community. Thus, the sample does not represent the most ultra-orthodox, or Hassidic subgroups. Nevertheless, the website is considered Haredi, therefore, there is a representation in the sample for those Orthodox groups that do use the internet. Despite the limitation, the sample represents the distribution of the Haredi community in terms of gender and sub-sector. Another limitation of the research tool is that it is possible that the wording of the open question, which asks to share feelings, was perceived as requesting an emotional response, thus creating a bias that is reflected in a high number of emotional responses.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, T.G. and D.F.; methodology, T.G. and D.F.; validation, T.G. and D.F.; formal analysis, T.G. and D.F.; investigation, T.G. and D.F.; data curation, T.G.; writing—original draft preparation, T.G.; writing—review and editing, T.G.; visualization, T.G.; project administration, T.G. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study after being promised anonymity.

Data Availability Statement

Data available on request.


This article is based on data collected at the Real Time Data Institute and with his assistance, we thank Avi Widerman, Ceo of the Institut. We also thank Kayma for its methodical assistance, and for cooperating with it the survey system of the Real Time Data Institute. The survey from which the data were taken for this study is part of a series of surveys that deals with the study of Haredi Community in Israel.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. Survey Following the Meron Crowd Crush (Translated from Hebrew)

  • How much do you trust the rescue organizations? (1 = I have no trust at all | 4 = I have a lot of trust + I don’t know)
  • Do you personally know someone who was in the Meron disaster?
    • Yes, I was present at the scene of the disaster
    • Yes, I know a person who was present at the scene of the disaster
    • Yes, I know a person who was injured or killed in a disaster
    • Yes, I know a person from the emergency forces who acted at the scene of the disaster
    • I don’t know
  • Would you like to briefly tell us about your feelings following the disaster______?
  • Do you usually go up to Meron on Lag B’Omer?
    • Not at all
    • Yes, but this year I didn’t go up because of the coronavirus
    • Yes, but not every year
    • Yes, every year regularly I went up once or twice
    • Not applicable
  • Have you been to other events in the past where you have felt that a disaster has almost occurred?
    • yes
    • not
    • I was at an event where a disaster occurred
    • Not applicable
  • Do you think disasters of the type of disaster in Meron can be prevented?
    • Yes, disasters of this type are preventable
    • No, these types of disasters are unavoidable
    • Everything is in heaven’s hands
    • I don’t know
  • Following the disaster, did you have the fear of attending mass events in the future?
    • Yes, and I will avoid reaching them
    • Yes, but I will not refrain from reaching them
    • not
    • I don’t know
  • How do you think we can, as a community, improve in the wake of the disaster? (You can mark more than one answer)
    • Paying attention to environmental safety hazards and taking action to correct them
    • Act on behalf of the families of the victims
    • Act to implement safety rules in the community and to correct hazards
    • Become stronger in Torah study, prayer or modesty
    • Become stronger in ‘free love’ (‘Ahavat Hinam’)
  • To what extent do you think improvement is needed in the following places in order to prevent disasters? (5 = Improvement required | 1 = No improvement required)
    • My Synagogue
    • My children’s school
    • Bonfires of Lag BaOmer
    • Happy Halls
    • Parks and Gardens
    • Pools and beaches
    • Roads and crosswalks
    • Household spaces (detergents, fire, sharp tools, etc.)
  • Have you contacted the authorities in the past to warn of a danger or safety hazard?
    • Yes, and the hazard has been properly treated
    • Yes, but the hazard was not treated properly
    • No, because I didn’t know who to turn to
    • I didn’t get a chance
    • Not applicable
  • Does your workplace/school have a procedure for handling emergency incidents?
    • Yes, but without periodic practices
    • Yes, including periodic exercises
    • I don’t know
    • not
    • Not relevant to me
Demographic questions:
  • What is your age?
  • What is your gender? (man, woman)
  • What is your occupation?
  • Where do you live?
  • Which sector do you belong to? (Hasidic, Lithuanian, Sephardi, Chabad, ‘Hapeleg hayerushalmi’, other)
  • How do you define yourself religiously? (1-very conservative | 5-very modern)
  • The average income for an Haredi household is NIS. 13,160. What is your household income level? (above average, close to average, below average, Not relevant).


As of the end of 2022.
The full questionnaire is attached as an Appendix A at the end of the article.
Beyond the research advantage of this question, it also had a therapeutic dimension, which was expressed in some of the replies, as well as it served to strengthen civic efficacy.
According to an estimate based on data from the Ministry of Education in Israel (the types of educational institutions and their supervision type), the Lithuanian group constitutes about 32% of the entire Haredi community, the Hassidic group—35%, and the Sephardic group around 33% (Regev and Gordon 2020).
It should be noted that reading the comments caused us deep pain and sorrow. Some of the descriptions were harsh and horrific, especially from those who were at the event and witnessed gruesome sights, and described in their response how the event affects them.
Five of the responses mentioned the dispute at the Ponevezh Yeshiva that caused the disaster. For a description of the roots of the dispute at the Ponevezh Yeshiva: (Brown 2017, pp. 91–94).
An extreme example of a conspiratorial voice according to which the State and the police initiated the disaster is found in the pamphlet by Shreiber (2021) entitled “Meron Victims Accuse: The Disaster Caused by the Evil Rulership in Meron 5781” Korbanot Meron Ma’ashimin (accessed on 12 February 2023)


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Figure 1. Categorization of the Responses to the Meron Crowd Crush by Clusters (N = 1146).
Figure 1. Categorization of the Responses to the Meron Crowd Crush by Clusters (N = 1146).
Religions 14 00294 g001
Figure 2. Distribution of Responses to the Meron Crowd Crush by Clusters and Categories (N = 1146).
Figure 2. Distribution of Responses to the Meron Crowd Crush by Clusters and Categories (N = 1146).
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Table 1. A Model of the Response Styles to the Meron Crowd Crush in the Haredi Community.
Table 1. A Model of the Response Styles to the Meron Crowd Crush in the Haredi Community.
Emotional Responses
(Category 2) a feeling of paralysis, fear, panic and anxiety, instability, the impact of the experience on the routine of life(Category 1) mourning, sorrow, frustration and helplessness in the face of the disaster and its consequences
Religious-Spiritual Responses
Religious Aspect
(Category 4) a call for ‘soul searching’ for religious strengthening and observance of mitzvot (commandments)(Category 3) a search for an explanation and religious reasons for the disaster (transgressions)
Spiritual-Transcendental Aspect
(Category 6) the disaster as a message from Heaven, ways to prevent other disasters through transcendental actions. searching for spiritual comfort, yearning for redemption and Messiah.(Category 5) searching for a solution and reason for the disaster with spiritual tools. dealing with questions of faith
Spiritual-Social Aspect
(Category 8) recommendations for social Tikun Olam (repairing the world) and improvement of social conduct(Category 7) attribution of the disaster to a collective punishment by Heaven following social Kilkul Olam (destruction of the world)
Civil Responses
(Category 10) suggestions for improvements, a call for action and initiative to correct deficiencies or investigation of the incident(Category 9) a search for deficiencies or organizations and individuals whose actions or omissions are the cause for the occurrence of the disaster
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Gado, T.; Fishof, D. Spectrum of Response Styles in a Religious-Orthodox Community to Civilian Disasters: The Responses of the Haredi Community to the Meron Crowd Crush (2021) as a Case Study. Religions 2023, 14, 294.

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Gado T, Fishof D. Spectrum of Response Styles in a Religious-Orthodox Community to Civilian Disasters: The Responses of the Haredi Community to the Meron Crowd Crush (2021) as a Case Study. Religions. 2023; 14(3):294.

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Gado, Tehila, and David Fishof. 2023. "Spectrum of Response Styles in a Religious-Orthodox Community to Civilian Disasters: The Responses of the Haredi Community to the Meron Crowd Crush (2021) as a Case Study" Religions 14, no. 3: 294.

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