Thousands celebrate Lag BaOmer in the northern Israeli city of Meron.
(photo credit: EITAN ELHADAZ/TPS)
In Meron, where hundreds of thousands of Jews descend yearly upon the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to mark the date of his death on Lag Bao'mer, bonfires were lit on Wednesday night despite warnings of unseasonably dry weather and after many municipalities had scaled back in fear of disasters.
The traditional central bonfire just outside of Meron was lit by Hassidic leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who drew controversy after being convicted for sexual assault.
Berland, the head of the Shuvu Banim community of the Breslov Hassidic sect, was convicted in a November 2016 plea bargain of two counts of indecent assault for sexual attacks on two women, as well as instructing one of his followers to assault the husband of one of the women he sexually assaulted. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail but was released under house arrest following an urgent operation in February.
During Wednesday night and Thursday's celebrations, 211 people had to be treated in Meron as a result of a variety of injuries including contusions, dehydration, falls from heights, snake bites and scorpion stings, fainting and other medical conditions, United Hatzalah reported.
Lag Bao'mer marks the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, a 49-day period of introspection and anticipation, which starts on the second day of Passover and culminates in the joyful holiday of Shavuot. Lag Bao'mer interrupts the solemn atmosphere of the Omer and marks the hillula
- the celebration of the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who, on his deathbed, was revealed the deepest secrets of Jewish mysticism in the form of the Zohar
On Lag Bao'mer, all restrictions of mourning are lifted for one day and traditionally weddings, parties, listening to music and haircuts are allowed. Lighting bonfires and the upsherin
, a haircutting ceremony which is carried out when a boy turns three years old, have become well-known traditions on Lag Bao'mer.
Avraham Gold contributed to this report.
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