First responders who arrived at the scene of the Meron disaster spoke about what they had witnessed, describing the events and the initial response.
Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedic Omri Hochman, who was one of the first at the scene, spoke about the tragedy he had witnessed.
"We arrived at the scene when there was a great amount of chaos, and dozens of people ran in our direction," he said. "They shouted at us where to go and said there were dozens of people injured. The sights were very difficult to digest - dozens of injured were lying near the grandstand and on the incline, and dozens more were walking around suffering from various injuries."
"The large number of forces on the mountain began to provide medical treatment and to perform CPR, and by using stretchers we evacuated the injured to MDA clinics on the mountain, and from there we continued treating them in ambulances, mobile ICUs, and helicopters to hospitals in northern Israel and Jerusalem."
MDA paramedic Maor Atedgi recalled Friday morning: "We removed injured people from piles of people, and we performed CPR on people who were critically injured."
"Large numbers of our forces evacuated the injured, some of them to MDA clinics and some to ambulances. In all my years in MDA, I don't remember such an enormous disaster."
MDA Director General Eli Bin said: "This is one of the greatest civilian disasters the State of Israel has ever known, and it is hard to digest the enormity of the tragedy. For over 20 years, Magen David Adom staff have been medically securing the Lag Ba'omer events in Meron, and this year it was one of the most complex security operations that MDA has ever prepared for, with over 250 ambulances and mobile ICUs from around the country, dozens of motorcycles, ATVs, buses for evacuating the injured, unique emergency vehicles, and an MDA helicopter. As we do every year, this year we placed a number of clinics around Meron, in order to appropriately secure the event."
"Yesterday morning, we participated in a largescale exercise led by Israel Police, and we did not imagine that we would find ourselves in such a difficult and complex event. All of the forces acted quickly and with dedication at an extremely difficult and complex scene, in coordination and cooperation with all the others. Even for MDA staff, who are used to difficult scenes, an event on this scale is very hard. We pray and wish a complete recovery to those who are injured, and we share the sorrow of the families whose loved ones were lost in this great tragedy."
Bin also said that at approximately 12:49a.m. on Friday morning, MDA began to receive calls about people who were injured from being crushed near the area where the Toldot Aharon hasidim were gathered by the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron.
"Large numbers of Magen David Adom forces made their way with medical equipment and stretchers, and when they arrived at the scene of the event, they were horrified by the horrible sight of the many who were injured," he said. "It was immediately declared a mass casualty event and the MDA hotline sent hundreds of ambulances and mobile ICUs from around the country, as well as MDA and IAF helicopters."
MDA staff provided medical treatment to 150 people who were injured, and provided hospitals in northern Israel with 207 blood donations and components.