Israeli police, worshippers clash at Mount Meron ahead of Jewish holiday

After 2020’s Lag B’Omer celebrations were cancelled due to the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of worshippers are attending the event this year.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Two people were arrested on Thursday morning during clashes with police officers at Mount Meron, the site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s grave where hundreds of thousands of Israelis traditionally gather for the Lag B’Omer holiday.

The skirmishes began when police started to limit the number of worshippers who could enter the site. According to Kan News, law enforcement set up a barrier at the women’s entrance to prevent new entries, which sparked a brawl.

A Twitter video from the scene shows scores of men destroying temporary fencing near the women’s area, as well as pushing and shoving between officers and worshippers.

In a statement to Kan News, the police said that they are not the authority that should be enforcing limits on the number of worshippers. Rather, the police said, that responsibility falls on the Religious Affairs Ministry.

The Religious Affairs Ministry declined to comment on the matter.

After 2020’s Lag B’Omer pilgrimage and torch lighting ceremony were cancelled due to the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of worshippers attended the event this year.

Although Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch recently said that all limits on vaccinated Israelis will be lifted in three weeks due to the country’s plunging coronavirus infection rates, the ministry had planned to keep limits on the number of people permitted to attend traditional Lag B’Omer events at Mount Meron.

Senior Health Ministry official Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis slammed the government in an interview with Channel 13 News.

“We worked for weeks on a framework. It was approved by all the parties, by the police, by the Religious Affairs Ministry, by the Interior Ministry — everyone,” she said. “But in the end it fell apart because no one would take responsibility for enforcement.”

She called the failure to implement the guidelines a “disgrace,” insinuating that the government avoided adopting them due to political sensitivities.

Citing the Indian coronavirus variant recently detected in Israel, Alroy-Preis warned of the “danger of contagion” at the massive Lag B’Omer gathering on Meron.

She said there is not enough information as to whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is effective against the Indian mutation.