Israelis ignite mass bonfires for Lag Ba Omer

Sunday, May 06, 2007 |  by Sara Fischer

The semi-gloomy skies on Sunday morning were nothing more than lingering smoke from the previous night’s mass bonfires that lit up the country for Lag Ba Omer.

Lag Ba Omer is the 33rd day of counting the Omer (sheaves) from Passover, ending the 33 day mourning period.

The holiday is believed to have originated from the time of Rabbi Akiva in the 1st century where a divine plague was sent because the people couldn’t get along, but it was on Lag Ba Omer that the plague traditionally ended. While there are variations of this story it essentially is a day of celebration and the commemoration of the Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochi.

In Israel, hundreds of thousands flock to the northern town of Meron, paying tribute at the tomb of the rabbi to celebrate the “Yarzeit” or the anniversary of what they believe, the “death of a godly man.”

Many gather in large groups with friends and family, barbequing hotdogs, kebabs and potatoes and roasting marshmallows in the forests, parks and deserts.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Dasha Voloshina told Israel Today and who was celebrating Lag Ba Omer in Israel for the first time. “It didn’t seem like I was in the middle of Jerusalem, but out somewhere with friends having fun.”

Israelis attempt to make the largest bonfire possible, but unfortunately these last for less than five minutes. Israelis began igniting their fires at the end of Shabbat, lasting until the wee hours of the morning.

The night is also filled with traditional campfire activities such as games and singing, but at a fair distance due to the blazing heat from the monstrous flames.

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