(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The police have issued a ban on private vehicles traveling to Meron, the burial place of Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, for this year’s Lag Ba’omer celebrations in an attempt to reduce the huge traffic congestion that has occurred in recent years.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the site every year for the minor holiday commemorating the anniversary of Bar Yohai’s death, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday night and Monday.
The police said that due to lessons learned in previous years, only public transport vehicles and private buses would be allowed access to the site, except for residents of the region.
Last year, tens of thousands of people were stuck in traffic gridlocks
and were unable to reach Meron or turn back.
Route 65 will be closed to private vehicles northbound from Golani junction, as will Route 85 from Rameh junction to Amiad junction in both directions, Route 89 and other roads in the area.
Chief Superintendent and Senior Traffic Officer Yossi Hatukai said on Wednesday that any private vehicles reaching the closed roads will be turned around by the police.
The roads in question will be closed from 7 a.m. on Friday until midnight on Sunday.
Hundreds of police officers will present at the major arteries leading to Meron, which is situated just north of Safed.
Hatukai called on bus drivers and passengers to be patient in the event of traffic congestion, and said that action would be taken if buses in poor working order are used to bring people to the site.
Separately, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate formally moved the Lag Ba’omer celebrations from Saturday night and Sunday, when the holiday actually falls, to Sunday night and Monday.
The step, which was also taken last year, is designed to prevent people from preparing their bonfires on Shabbat. Building and lighting bonfires is one of the central customs of the festival.
The council said that anyone who nevertheless did want to light a bonfire on Saturday night should wait till at least 10:30 to do so in order to “guard the sanctity of Shabbat.”