IN PICTURES: Bonfires spark celebrations for Lag Ba'omer

Tens of thousands of pilgrims en route to celebrations in Meron, the burial site of Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Lag Baomer bonfire 4 390  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Lag Baomer bonfire 4 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tens of thousands of people embarked on Saturday for Mount Meron, near Safed, in the Upper Galilee, to mark the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'omer, which marks the death of second century Mishnaic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The police issued a ban on private vehicles traveling to Meron, the burial place of Talmudic sage, for this year’s Lag Ba’omer celebrations.Public transportation and shuttles were bringing pilgrims to the site. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the site every year for the minor holiday commemorating the anniversary of Bar Yohai’s death.Traditionally the holiday falls on the 33rd day in the count from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot, marking the cessation of a plague that killed thousands of students of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva. Over the years, the holiday took on various mystical overtones and customs. Rabbi Bar Yohai was thought to be the author of the Zohar, the foundational text of Jewish mysticism.Police, Magen David Adom paramedics and firefighters were deployed on Saturday night in large numbers in Meron. Due to the commonplace practice of lighting bonfire, Lag Ba'omer is also a day of wildfires and injury. Ultra-Orthodox Jews also sometimes burn Israeli flags. In Tiberias, a dummy of Finance Minister Yair Lapid was prepared for a Lag Ba'omer bonfire to be burned on Saturday night. The children who prepared the bonfire chose Lapid because of his efforts to draft haredim.Jeremy Sharon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.