A bonfire seen on Lag Ba'omer.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Education Ministry reaffirmed its controversial decision on Tuesday to delay the Lag Ba’omer vacation in the education system by one day because of a concern raised by the ultra-Orthodox community regarding the desecration of Shabbat.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced the decision last week, to the outrage of teachers, parents and students, which would move the school vacation day from Sunday, May 14 to Monday, May 15.
The ministry justified the decision to move holiday following the request of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on the issue and “as a response to the needs of some 750,000 [ultra-Orthodox] students in the education system.”
The Chief Rabbinate made the request out of concern that students would begin to light the traditional holiday bonfires ahead of the official end of Shabbat on Saturday evening.
Parents and teachers slammed the ministry and said in response that they plan their vacation days according to the school calendar, and that changing the vacation day for pupils – which is a normal working day for the public – at the last minute causes significant logistical and economic problems.
On Monday evening, Channel 2 reported that the National Parents’ Association of Jerusalem put forth a proposal calling to move up the celebratory bonfires to Thursday, May 11, removing the fear of desecrating Shabbat and allowing the vacation day to remain in place as scheduled.
The proposal reached the desk of Chief Rabbi David Lau, who called the proposal “right and worthy” and said he would approve moving up the bonfires to avoid the “hatred” against the ultra-Orthodox community that the issue has stirred up.
“This proposal, which will certainly prevent the desecration of Shabbat, also has the added benefit of love and prevention of polarization among the people and anger between the different communities in Israel,” the Chief Rabbinate’s office said in a statement to Channel 2.
The rabbinate also added that the request to delay the Lag Ba’omer holiday was sent to the Education Ministry some three months ago, but that they had only received a response last week.
Despite this, the Education Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday reaffirming its decision to postpone the vacation by one day.