Reading Time: 2 minutes

Remember those ultra-Orthodox Jewish weddings in New York, where thousands of people packed together, indoors, without masks, because they just didn’t care about the pandemic?

Now consider what happened in Jerusalem on Thursday night:

By some estimates, about 100,000 people were crammed together near midnight to celebrate the holiday of Lag b’Omer, when ultra-Orthodox Jews traditionally convene at the tomb of a prominent rabbi from antiquity on Mount Meron. The festivities include dancing and bonfires.

I guess it’s outdoors, at least…

But that’s not the actual story. It’s not enough that a giant horde of pandemic-deniers met in person. It’s that there was a deadly stampede at the event — cause unknown — that has left dozens of people dead.

One eyewitness described it as being “like a war zone” and told Channel 12 TV that he had seen the bodies of two dead children. Images from the disaster scene showed bodies on stretchers, covered with foil blankets. The slope was strewn with shoes and plastic bottles and other debris.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service reported that 103 people were injured, 38 of whom were in critical condition and being treated in the field, according to Zaki Heller, a spokesman for the organization.

News reports put the death toll at around 40.

That fact that this was a super-spreader event was somehow the least deadly thing about it.

This whole tragedy would be horrifying any given year. It’s especially awful when you consider how many legitimate reasons everyone had to skip this celebration. At least 40 people are dead for no good reason whatsoever, all because they felt (or were led to believe that) their faith was more important than their health.

(Thanks to Terry for the link)

Avatar photo

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.