Dozens killed in stampede at Jewish religious festival in Israel

Stampede began when large numbers of people tried to exit the site

At least 44 people have been crushed to death at an overcrowded religious bonfire festival in Israel. More than 150 others were injured.

According to witnesses and video footage, the stampede began when large numbers of people trying to exit the site rushed to a narrow tunnel-like passage. People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gather each year to honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic buried there. Large crowds traditionally light bonfires, pray and dance as part of the celebrations.

banner image: Lag Ba’Omer Near Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (1939) – Government Press Office via Flickr