This and That

Random bits of my life

Lag baOmer, 2010

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 2, 2010

Lag beOmer, 2010

Last night and today are Lag baOmer, a holiday of, shall we say, practices with rather obscure origins. The biblical origin is fairly straightforward. The name means 33rd day of the Omer (barley harvest). The days of the Omer are counted from the second day of Passover until Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks. Over the years, this relatively minor holiday acquired kabbalistic significance. The biggest celebration is in the town of Meron, in the Galilee region of Israel, where thousands of people gather at the tomb of Shimon bar Yochai. I was there about 16 years ago. It really is a sight — lots of schnapps and arak, huge crowds of Ashkenazim and Sephardim all getting along, singing and dancing around enormous bonfires. The bus companies set up a temporary bus station in the middle of a field. People come from all over the country to celebrate at Meron. In hassidic circles, a three-year-old boy’s first haircut will be performed on this night and the locks of hair thrown into the fire.

Outside Meron, the bonfires are the most noticeable feature of the holiday. Children start gathering wood weeks in advance, plundering construction sites, dead groves, and pruned gardens. If you want to get rid of old furniture and it will burn, leave it on the sidewalk at this time of year. Before your back is turned, a group of kids with shopping carts will have dismantled it and carted it away! When I was looking at the Nofei Sela neighbourhood, across the wadi, it looked like the beacons of Gondor. Every 500 meters or so, you could see a huge bonfire blazing.

Lag baOmer also marks the end of mourning restrictions observed during the days between the end of Passover and Shavuot. For example, weddings, haircuts, listening to live music, and parties are generally not held during this time. (Actually, there are different ways to count the mourning days and some count to the new moon.) The days after Lag baOmer are the start of the wedding season. The invitations have just started to arrive at our house.

I went out last night to photograph some of the events around my neighbourhood, most of them involving a lot of smoke. Nahalat Yehuda, a local congregation, organized an event with a singer/guitarist (photo above) and barbecue on the basketball court.

Lag beOmer, 2010

The photo below was taken later in the evening, when they’d turned on the lights.

Lag beOmer, 2010

Lag beOmer, 2010

Other families organized their own fires and barbecues.

Lag beOmer, 2010

The local Bnei Akiva kids gathered an enormous quantity of wood and set up two large bonfires. I took this photo with a zoom lens from the road. The boys in the middle who are a bit blurred are dancing.

Lag beOmer, 2010

All photos taken with a Canon PowerShot S5 IS.

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