The lighting of bonfires and campfires in open areas will be prohibited throughout the country on the holiday of Lag Ba'omer, starting on Sunday, May 7 at 8 p.m. until Wednesday, May 10, Israel Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Eyal Caspi announced on Wednesday.
The decision was made to enable an adequate operational response to tens of thousands of fires burning simultaneously throughout the country, for fear of the spread of large fires.
The exception to the prohibition will be areas that have been prepared by the local authorities for the purpose of lighting fires in open areas.
"This is a measured and time-bound order that weighs the public's desire to celebrate and observe the tradition of the holiday against maintaining the peace of the public, nature and the environment. I call on the public to show responsibility and celebrate while adhering to the safety rules and the directives of the order," Caspi added.
Avoid fires to decrease pollution, Israeli ministries say
The Health and Environmental Protection ministries joined the call to avoid lighting fires this Lag Ba'omer, in order to decrease the air pollution and other harms to the health and the environment which are caused by the yearly bonfires.
Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman commented: "In recent years, there has been a significant decrease in air pollution thanks to public awareness of the issue and the reduction of bonfires. It's possible to celebrate differently! We call on the public to refrain from lighting bonfires, and to celebrate the holiday together with an activity that will protect public health and the environment, and not create hazards."
"Fires can be dangerous to the environment and public health," new Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel added. "It is our duty to adhere to the safety procedures, to prevent unnecessary and dangerous injury and to reduce air pollution as much as possible. I call on parents to remain vigilant and prevent the risk to ourselves and the children from inhaling air, from fire, and from being exposed to environmental and health harms as much as possible."
Despite the significant reduction in air pollution in Lag Ba'Omer in recent years, the highest level of particles in the air that was measured last year was still over seven times that of a regular day, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.
During a bonfire, high concentrations of respirable particles. The particles can be dangerous, especially to children, who often get referred to the emergency room for burns in the larynx during Lag Ba'Omer.
The Health and Environmental Protection Ministries, therefore, call on the public to avoid bonfires this year and to hold alternative social activities in nature, like hiking.
In case you really don't want to miss having a bonfire, you can combine several bonfires together to reduce the overall number.
Both ministries also put out guidelines to ensure a safe and happy holiday for all.
Guidelines by the Environmental Protection Ministry
If you do have a fire, don't throw plastic, nylon, and of course disposable plastic or styrofoam utensils into it. The burning of these causes the emission of carcinogenic substances and is also accompanied by bad smells, the ministry said.
Do not burn wood substitutes, as their production process includes mixing with various adhesives, and they emit particles containing dangerous substances into the air. The same goes for painted or varnished wood. Place the campfire in an area without thorns and weeds and at a reasonably safe distance from buildings, electricity and telephone lines, trees, bushes or fuel facilities.
Avoid using plastic utensils - use reusable utensils instead. Bring garbage bags with you and leave the place as clean as you found it.
Guidelines by the Health Ministry
One responsible adult should be appointed to accompany the preparations for a bonfire, from collecting the wood to the end of the fire. Don't leave children unattended, even for just a moment.
Only use wood without nails or other protruding objects that could cut and injure people and keep any flammable or combustible material away from the fire.
Wear high shoes and long pants and shirts, to protect the body from flying embers as well as possible bites from reptiles and vermin, who might get attracted to the heat of the fire.
Keep a mobile phone on you and a first aid kit and two full buckets of water near the fire to be ready for emergencies.
If you are cooking potatoes or onions in the coals of the fire, thread them on a wire to make it safer to take them out, which should only be done by adults. Make sure they have cooled before eating them.
Do not throw glass and stones into the fire. They can explode in the fire and pose a danger to everyone around you.