A bonfire during Lag Ba'omer festivities in Bnei Brak .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Injuries from Lag Ba’omer bonfires may multiply this year as additional nights of celebration are held because of a controversy over when to mark the Jewish holiday.
According to Jewish tradition, during Roman rule, tens of thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva died in a plague during the Omer period because they did not treat one another with respect. Therefore, as a sign of mourning during the Omer (until Lag Ba’omer, or from the first of the month of Iyar until the day before Shavuot), Jewish religious law prohibits weddings, haircuts and listening to music.
The 33rd day of the Omer, or “lag” in Hebrew numerical abbreviation, is a break in that 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot. That falls on Saturday night this year.
A few hundred thousand celebrants are expected to reach Mount Meron as early as Friday and remain through Sunday or Monday. But because celebrations, particularly at the burial site of the holiday’s central figure, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, could cause Shabbat desecration, it was suggested that the bonfires be held on Friday.
When the Education Ministry said bonfires would be lit Sunday night to prevent such desecration, and that schoolchildren would have Monday off to “recuperate” from the late-night bonfires, it left four days for lighting fires and celebrating.
Magen David Adom and other rescue forces will be on hand in various parts of the country to handle injuries.
MDA will operate at its highest level of alertness during Lag Ba’omer. It is setting up a command and control center on the Mount Meron site along with two medical clinics at the Meron Yeshiva and nearby Szifron factory.
Medics and paramedics on ambulances, mobile intensive care units, ambucycles and even helicopter, will be ready to handle all emergencies.
The Health and Environmental Protection Ministries noted that Lab Ba’omer brings high levels of air pollution to many parts of the country. Asthmatics, pregnant women, the elderly and children who quickly suffer from smoke inhalation should stay indoors. On average, pollution levels on Lag Ba’omer are two to four times higher than on typical evenings, and can even be up to 18 times higher in some places. In addition, there is a significant increase in the emergency room visits for treatment of children, the ministries said.
The number of children suffering burns from Lag Ba’omer bonfires has risen consistently in the past decade. To avoid harm, numerous rules issued by the ministries and MDA should be followed.
Avoid dehydration by drinking, even when you don’t feel thirsty; carry enough water with you; don’t walk in the sun without a wide-brimmed hat on; and apply sunscreen to exposed skin.
Do not light fires near flammable liquids or electricity poles and facilities; don’t throw spray cans or other dangerous items into the fire; eat only food that has been appropriately refrigerated and kept under sanitary conditions; and never leave young children or pets in a vehicle alone, even for a moment.
Those who look for wood for bonfires must be very careful. Do not pick up pieces with nails in them. Do not enter deserted fields, as snakes – awakening from winter hibernation with plenty of venom in their glands – may be hiding there. Do not enter construction sites looking for wood.
At bonfires, there must always be a responsible adult who lights the fire, prevents it from spreading and supervises children and teens. Bonfires should be lit in areas without bushes, weeds or thorns and at a safe distance from buildings and overhead wires and trees. Put small stones around the bonfire to prevent the fire from spreading and prevent children from getting too near.
Wear high shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and never move rocks, as scorpions and snakes may be hiding there. Equip yourself with a first-aid kit, plenty of water, blankets and a cellphone.
If anyone’s clothes get set on fire, don’t let them run; tell them to stop, drop and roll on the ground to douse the flames or have someone throw a wet blanket on them, leaving their face uncovered. In case of a skin burn, cool the area with running water and call MDA at 101.
If sparks enter the eyes, rinse them with running water.