In this extraordinary story, Elad Macharish shares with us the moments of terror in Meron and how he was saved from the jaws of death.
(Story courtesy of Kav Breslov – *9148)
“On the line with us is Elad Macharish, who was on the ‘passageway of death’ in Meron and was saved in a miraculous way, baruch Hashem. We are happy to speak to you; baruch Hashem, that you’re alive… You have a great miracle to tell us about:”
“My friend was afraid to go into the crowd, by I persuaded him”
“We were four, five friends who traveled to Meron together. In Meron, we branched out and each person went to his affairs… Around 12:20 am, I met one of the friends, relatively close to the area where the incident happened, to the passageway. We had a conversation between friends about strengthening oneself in stories of Tzaddikim, how much one needs to strengthen himself in faith in Tzaddikim, and in the midst of us talking we started to hear on the loud speaker of Toldos Aharon the song — “V’Amartem Ko L’Chai”… and they began the dancing.
“I said to the friend, let’s go and dance. This is an important part of the Hilulah — to dance and rejoice. And he, for whatever reason, said to me that there are masses of people and he is afraid to go there. I didn’t understand. I said to him that every year there are lots of people, and every year everything is okay. I said to him, ‘Don’t worry. Ever year there are masses of people, and it’s possible to dance — everything is fine.’ I didn’t understand that we were talking about a completely different number of people.
“The friend was persuaded, and we began to progress towards Toldos Aharon, to that plaza. We were a bit further above… When we reached that passageway…we were stuck to the wall. We saw a large number of people trying to go up to the plaza. At the moment we arrived, there were still a portion who were trying to ascend and a portion trying to descend — this was two-way. Mamash, in a matter of a few seconds, while we are trying to progress in the crowdedness, suddenly a group arrives who are returning and saying that they aren’t allowing [people] to enter.”
“The path was blocked and already [people] can’t manage to go back”
“A bit of pushing began. People still had where to push. I said to the friend, ‘They say that it’s impossible to pass, let’s go back.’ We’re trying to go back and we see that already there is immense crowding. Everything mamash happens fast. In the meantime, only more and more people are being pressed in from the direction of the plaza, and the path from where we entered was closed. The public were not being vacated from there, something there was blocked; the public didn’t go out, and more people continued to enter the same passageway [Translator’s note: That one end of the passageway was blocked and unable to see this, people continued entering from the other end, forming a massive bottleneck].
“There was tremendous congestion in a matter of a few seconds. I felt that something not good was about to happen. People shouted, ‘Don’t push!’ You feel it in the air. There was great pressure. It still hadn’t begun mamash… In the midst of people mamash being pressed until it was impossible to move even a centimeter, but still standing. It reached a situation where from so much overcrowding [above, in the plaza], people didn’t stop entering, but there was nowhere to exit.
“It became a bottleneck of enormous pressure. People simply began to collapse, to fall from so much burden, because this [the passageway] was also a bit in the form of a descent. People began to fall in a slow manner, because even though there was nowhere to escape, there was nowhere to move. People collapsed in the place where they stood. Fell on the floor, one fell on the other, one trampled the other. This also is what happened to us.”
“One falls over the other. Shouts of: ‘I’m dead'”
“I was next to my friend. He fell first on the person in front of him. My friend fell on him, I fell on my friend, mamash in a way of complete collapse on the stomach. More people fell on me; I don’t know exactly how many, but I felt a great weight on my body. I felt great pressure. My leg was twisted with a lot of pressure, but I was still okay. My head more or less still had a place to breathe. We were more or less closer to the exit, so somehow my head was more in an outward direction.
“Lots of screaming and shouting began. People began to be buried, one underneath the next — children and adults mamash shouting. People began to panic mamash. There was a feeling of very harsh din (judgement), that something very bad is happening here. We still didn’t understand to what extent, but this was the feeling in the air. People entered [a state of] panic and stress.
“[People] shouted, ‘I’m dead! I have no air! People are suffocating! — Rescue! Rescue!’ Lots of screams like that. At this stage, I couldn’t see so much what was happening around, because I myself was on the floor with my face in the direction of the ground. I didn’t see much, only heard. I only saw that ahead people were trying to break through. There was something like a sheet metal wall which covered some depression which had been blocked. People tried to break through it in order to allow people to crawl into that passageway and release a bit of the pressure.
“For some reason, people didn’t manage to exit. At some stage, they opened it, and a portion of the people who were on the outside border managed to escape by way of that notch. People escaped a bit, but the giant mass remained stuck and everyone was on top of one another, stuck in a way that was impossible to move. It was necessary to extricate [them], because everyone was entangled with the other.
“In the meantime, rescue forces arrived and tried to extricate them. I also stretched my hand out forward. Also before we began to fall, the feeling was like they were leading you off to the gas chambers; that’s how I felt in any case — a feeling of helplessness. A feeling that the evil inclination has come to take a number of souls here, and there is nothing to do about it — simply out of control. This was the feeling.”
“The whole time I requested from Hashem to save me in the merit of Rav Berland”
“I was always murmuring ‘Shema Yisrael,’ and still then, before I fell and we understood that the situation was very grave, I requested that Hashem save me in the merit of Rav Berland. This is what I murmured: ‘Shema Yisrael’ and that Hashem save me in the merit of Rav Berland.
“My leg was twisted. At some point, I felt sharp pains, because the blood was stopped. The blood wasn’t flowing well in the leg — this caused me very sharp pains in my leg. After they opened the wall, something like a small passage was formed for people to come to the rescue. I stretched out my hand to one of them. He tried to pull me, but said to me that it was impossible — ‘You’re too much inside and have a lot of weight on you.’ Really, I felt that it was impossible to pull me.”
“I promised a pidyon [redemption money] to Rav Berland”
“In the meantime, the pains in my leg became very strong. At this stage, I already promised a pidyon to the merit of Rav Berland. I started to scream several times — I volunteer a pidyon to the merit of Rav Berland. The intention: that I would give a sum of money to take part in legal expenses and everything that the Rav needs, for the Prayer Hall [on Ido HaNavi Street, near the Rav’s house]. This was my intention, to give this as a soul redemption mamash. By the way, many times I did this in minor incidents that happened to me at home — when my children were sick, or my wife.
“I always promised to give a pidyon for all types of things that Rav Berland needs, and, really, I always saw salvation — also this time. At the second that I screamed, ‘I’m giving a pidyon, giving a pidyon’ — in the midst of me saying this, I felt that they managed to pull people off of me and pull me out.”
“My friend had already reconciled himself with death but heard me and…”
“I said [that I would give a pidyon to Rav Berland]. A moment before this, he tried to pull me and said that he couldn’t, and in the seconds that I said that I am giving a pidyon to the merit of Rav Berland, he pulled me, and also my friend who was underneath. Afterwards, I spoke to the friend. He said to me something very beautiful. He went into greater panic than I did. He began to cry, screamed ‘Save me!’ and took it very hard. When we were on the floor, he really cried and was stressed out.
“At some stage, he stopped crying and was very quiet. He told me that, after the fact, he entered a sort of despair. He could only breathe and left it at that. He understood that this was something uncontrollable and that there was nothing to do — one must accept the decree. At the moment that he heard me, that I’m giving a pidyon, he said that this gave him vitality, like new life — he said that he would also give. At the moment that he heard me shout, I was mamash above his head. He said, ‘I’m also giving’ and baruch Hashem, in these seconds that we both shouted this together, they pulled us out, and baruch Hashem we were saved from this disaster.
“When we got out, we saw many youths lying down who were having resuscitation performed on them. There was a lot of screaming there and many who needed to be extricated.”
“I took with me to Meron 18 books of Rav Berland to distribute”
“I little bit earlier than this… it’s possible to say that this is another thing which sweetened the decree: I took with me to Meron the new books of Rav Berland. There is a new book of the Rav which is called ‘Todah V’Hoda’ah.’ I decided to take with me a package of 18 books in order to do, at the [bonfire] lighting of the Breslovers, zacui harabim — to give merit to the masses [through distributing the books]. I know that it’s very important to the Rav that every Jew should have these books; the Rav mamash talks about this a lot. Specifically about this book it’s written that it’s a practical guide. There are many books, but this book is a practical guide, it’s practical halacha mamash — how to behave, how to act — an amazing book. A warmly recommend to take heart and learn the books of Rav Berland.”
“I took with me this package and went around with it all over Meron. One who knows, this isn’t simple in this crowdedness and congestion to walk from place to place with this sort of load. It could be that this also stood in my merit. I don’t know. I’m now thinking about all sorts of things that happened that night.”
“From the time that Rav Berland took upon himself suffering to sweeten the Corona, my connection with him became stronger”
“I had a trauma. I had an uneasiness which accompanied me until recently… like a difficult uneasiness in the heart, like great sadness which I can’t explain. It was very difficult for me to be freed from this. From a standpoint of memories, this began to become dimmed for me. At the beginning, I remembered more of the sights which I saw… Now this is improving. Also about this I pray and do a lot of hisbodedus that all these feelings will turn into good.
“One needs to strengthen oneself a lot in faith and to understand that also what we saw was with great Divine providence and with great sweetening [from what it could have been].
“I’m close to Breslov for ten years. To Rav Berland… it’s possible to say that my connection to him became much closer in the last two years. Before this, I was closer to the students of Rav Berland: Rav Ofer Erez, Rav Shalom Arush — I would go a lot to hear them. Also Rav Meir Shlomo z”l I would hear a lot. I would go a lot to hear Rav Tzenani… I was very connected to the students of Rav Berland, but the Rav himself I wasn’t so connected to.
“In the last two years, from when they just started talking about Corona, and said that Rav Berland accepted onto himself a lot of suffering in order to sweeten this — this really touched my heart. At that time, they began to request to say for him Tikkun Klali’s. I started to say for him Tikkun Klali’s, and this really connected me to him. I started to feel a great light from the Rav; because I said for him Tikkun Klali’s, the connection between us became stronger and I started to see much Divine assistance in my Avodas Hashem from every perspective — something which I didn’t have until now.
“From the day that I began to draw close to Rav Berland, I set up a standing order [for donations], and also from this I saw many miracles and wonders. I continued saying more Tikkun Klali’s, and to receive more advice which the Rav said to do, to pay attention to shiurim, to mamash connect more directly to the Rav — to see what the Rav says to do, what is his advice… The more that I threw aside [my own] thinking, and nullified myself to the Rav’s thinking, I began to feel mamash Divine assistance in Avodas Hashem — my personal things and also general things, whether in Torah learning, working on character traits, lusts.
“Mamash I felt a lot of Divine assistance. I felt that the Rav is taking me out of the negative places which I was in. Also today, the more that I merit to draw close to the Rav, [so] can I receive very good influences from the Rav.
“I was always one who tried to serve Hashem and to take things seriously — anyone who knows me. But with the Rav this a totally different Avodah. With the Rav, one merits to receive abilities which are above nature. You merit to attain avodos which are not even on your level at all. The Rav mamash opens the way; the Rav gives you the power to do things which are above and beyond.
“This is from personal experience. The more that I merit to draw close, to bring the Rav’s advice close, to fulfill them literally, without thinking too much, without ‘being smart’ — we should merit to great light.”