Hundreds of thousands celebrate Lag B’Omer at Mount Meron

Hundreds of thousands celebrated Lag B’Omer Saturday night at the gravesite of revered Jewish sage and mystic Shimon Bar Yochai.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis made a pilgrimage to Israel’s Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee on Saturday night to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

According to tradition, Bar Yochai’s death occurred on Lag B’Omer, translated as “the 33rd day of the Omer,” which, according to the Hebrew calendar, is on the 18th day of Iyar and this year fell on Saturday night. The Omer comprises a period of seven complete weeks starting from the second night of Passover and ending at the Jewish Festival of Weeks, known as Shavuot.

Many mark Lag B’Omer by visiting Bar Yochai’s gravesite as well as by kindling bonfires that symbolize the spiritual light brought into the world by the mystical sage through his prominent Kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) work known as the Zohar, eventually compiled in Spain some 1000 or so years later.

According to tradition, Bar Yochai touched upon the mystical secrets in the Zohar as he and his son spent 12 years hiding in a cave. The Romans had recently squashed the Jewish rebellion and sentenced Bar Yochai to death for his opposition to the Roman Empire.

Among distinguished individuals in attendance at the Meron festivities, marked by bonfires and dancing, included Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay.

United Hatzalah, a volunteer organization that provides preliminary emergency medical care, has treated 432 people in Meron as of 12:00 p.m. on Sunday for various injuries including falls, cuts, bruises, burns and respiratory problems.

“We have teams patrolling the compound of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai as well as the rest of the town and designated parking areas,” stated President of United Hatzalah Eli Beer. “Our volunteers are patrolling on ambucycle, ATV, and on foot, in order to provide the fastest response to those injured during the festivities, even if they are in crowded or hard to reach areas.”

While celebrations at Mount Meron and throughout Israel have continued well into daytime, some will instead mark the holiday Sunday night. as a result of a precautionary stance taken by Israel’s Rabbinate this year. Kindling fire is forbidden on the Jewish Sabbath, and as a result, the Rabbinate felt it necessary to postpone celebrations by a day in order to prevent the possibility of Sabbath desecration through early preparations.

As a result of the Rabbinate’s decision, the scheduled school vacation day for Lag Ba’Omer was postponed from Sunday to Monday, causing scheduling conflicts for those who choose to celebrate on the proper date.

By: World Israel News Staff