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Under Control

Tzippy Yarom

Hundreds of thousands of supplicants. One venue. How can the logistical coordinators behind massive chareidi events ban the chaos and control the crowds?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lag B’omer is quickly approaching, and the organizers charged with logistical preparations for the pilgrimage to Meron are finalizing their plans for the auspicious day. Memories of last year’s systems crash — with masses of people stranded for hours on their way to and from Meron — and the tragic trampling deaths at Rav Shmuel Wosner’s levayah just a few weeks ago, have compounded the usual concerns. Public scrutiny will be doubled, and public censor unforgiving, if the combined efforts of the Center for the Development of Holy Sites, the police force, and all the relevant askanim don’t manage to handle it better this time. But the challenge they face is a daunting one: The site, a small stone building located at the top of a Meron mountain accessed by a one-lane road, must somehow accommodate an estimated quarter million visitors over the course of 24 hours. Last year, 250,000 people visited Meron, and the numbers are only expected to grow. With just two keynote events, most of the remaining hours are unplanned and unstructured, though the highlight of the trip for almost all visitors is the few minutes spent in supplication inside the modest-sized tziyun. How do you do it? How do you keep the scene under control while ensuring the safety and security of so many people? Over the years, a cadre of dedicated activists has been finding the answers to those questions through firsthand experience. Charged with the dizzying logistics of mega-events held by a blossoming Torah-observant community, they’ve learned more than a few lessons along the way.

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