man walking up stairs covered in debris, trash and garments
A volunteer with the ZAKA emergency response group walks through the debris left in the aftermath of the stampede in Meron, Israel. (ZAKA/Aharon Baruch Leibowitz)

Three teenagers among 6 Americans killed in Israeli stampede

Six Americans and one Canadian were among at least 45 people killed in a crush of bodies after a stampede at a Lag Ba’Omer celebration in northern Israel on April 30. They included two teenage yeshiva students from New Jersey and New York, as well as a 13-year-old boy who had moved to Israel with his family.

Elazar Yitzchak (Azi) Koltai, 13, who lived in New Jersey before moving to Jerusalem, was in the crowd of tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews that gathered at Mount Meron to mark the Lag Ba’Omer holiday Thursday night when a stampede on a crowded ramp led to the deadliest civilian disaster in Israel’s history. He was killed, along with Nachman Doniel Morris of New Jersey, 19, who had flown to Israel in September to study at Yeshivat Shaalvim. Also identified as a victim was New York’s Yosef Amram Tauber, 19, a student at the Brisk yeshiva. A relative said that he left for Israel to attend the yeshiva “for the first time last week” after Israel relaxed Covid restrictions.

young boy smiling in front of crowd
Nachman Doniel Morris in a photo shared on social media.

“His parents were nervous to send him away,” the relative said, adding it was Tauber’s first time in Israel.

Also killed in the stampede was Montreal-born Shraga Gestetner, a 35-year-old singer from New Jersey. Married and the father of five, he was in Israel visiting relatives. Other American victims who have been identified include Menachem Knoblowitz, 22, of New York City, Rabbi Eliezer Tzvi Joseph, 26, of Kiryas Joel in New York, and Yossi Cohen, 21, of Cleveland, Ohio.

Orthodox Jewish nonprofit Misaskim has established a hotline for Americans trying to contact immediate family members in Israel at (718) 854-4548. A spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York said his office had contacted all of the families of those killed in the tragedy to offer assistance. Israel’s airline El Al is also offering to fly close relatives of those killed to Israel.

 

Stewart Ain

JTA correspondent

JTA

Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.