Lag Ba’omer to be celebrated for two days this year

Practically speaking, this means that bonfires will blaze from Saturday night until Monday, some even as early as Thursday night.

Lag baomer bonfire 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lag baomer bonfire 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lag Ba’omer is one of the more dangerous holidays in the Jewish calendar. Children celebrating around the traditional bonfires lit by Jews across the country tend to get too close to the fire, and can get hurt by sparks, nails, scorpions and other animals or other dangers at bonfires around the country.
Smoke inhalation poses a risk to people of all ages.
Lag Ba’omer celebrations, which put on pause the semimourning period traditionally associated with the period between Passover and Shavuot to commemorate the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 pupils in the first century CE, mark the death and legacy of the great mystic Rabbi Shimon Bar- Yochai.
This year’s festivities will be riskier than usual: The holiday falls on Saturday night and Sunday, the rabbinate has postponed celebrations to Sunday night and Monday to prevent the Sabbath from being desecrated.
Practically speaking, this means that bonfires will blaze from Saturday night until Monday – with some even as early as Thursday night.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims are expected to flock to Meron near Safed in the North to celebrate around Bar-Yochai’s tomb, but Israelis will gather around bonfires across the country. The Fire and Rescue Services (dial 102 for emergencies) intends to deploy firetrucks to spots where they will be most needed — ultra- Orthodox communities in particular — to prevent the outbreak of uncontrolled flames.
Magen David Adom said it plans to be on its highest alert level (Level 3) during the holiday.
The emergency services group will operate a control center on Mount Meron, which will include two mobile first aid clinics.
In Meron alone, 150 paramedics, medics and volunteers in mobile intensive care units and ambulances will be ready for emergencies. Last year, MDA treated more than 200 celebrants at the site for burns, falls from heights, drunkenness and injuries from violence.
MDA advises the public to drink a lot of water, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen — temperatures on the holiday are expected to be high. People with chronic illnesses who plan to travel should remember to bring enough medications.
Food should be stored in coolers, under hygienic conditions.
Spray cans or alcohol should never be thrown into fires. Drive carefully in the expected heavy traffic. Do not leave children unsupervised anywhere, including in locked vehicles – for even a moment.
MDA noted that every year, children climbing trees to (illegally) cut branches for bonfires sustain broken bones and other injuries.
Should a person’s clothing catch on fire, roll him on earth, cover him (but not his head) with a wet blanket or towel or douse him with water. Do not remove burnt clothing that has stuck to his skin. Instead, place sterile (or at least) wet compresses on the burnt skin and immediately dial 101. If a spark enters the eye, rinse it well with running water. Wear long-sleeved garments and high-top shoes.
As the smoke will probably be fierce this year, pregnant women and people who suffer from chronic diseases should stay indoors.
Most burns result from children stepping on burning branches and planks, says Beterem, the National Council for Child Safety and Health. Combustible material should be collected carefully and set up far from living trees, grass, bushes, utility lines and anything else that could ignite.
When bonfires are over, always douse the remains with water and stir the wet ashes well to prevent them from reigniting.
Always take a first-aid kit with you to a bonfire. Be careful when eating hot roasted potatoes and onions because they can cause serious burns in the mouth.