Half a million observant Israelis made their way to Mount Meron on Saturday night as the Sabbath gave way to Lag Baomer, the Jewish holiday on which bonfires are lit to commemorate the Talmud-era day on which a plague that had killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students finally ended.
Another of the rabbi's students, Shimon Bar Yochai, survived the plagued and went on to become, according to tradition, the author of the Zohar
. Bar Yochai is also commemorated on Lag Baomer, with celebrations and torchlighting taking place at his burial place on Mount Meron.
And so, hundreds of thousands of Jews made their way to the site
Saturday for the annual celebration, during which three-year-olds
receive their first haircuts.
Over 1,000 policemen were deployed to the site in order to ensure that
the festivities were not marred by traffic jams or car accidents. They assessed that even as the Sabbath was waning, there were 20,000 pilgrims at the site.
Police will use surveillance cameras, helicopters and a zeppelin to
watch over the celebrants throughout the holiday.
Days ahead of Lag Baomer - which falls on a Saturday this year,
guaranteeing traffic after the Sabbath - the Egged bus company made
preparations for the mass pilgrimage, sending dozens of buses out from
haredi areas such as Jerusalem and Bnei Brak to the Galilee.