As the smoke clears from a slightly damp Independence Day barbecue the important task of collecting wood in shopping trolleys begins for the next fire friendly festival in Israel, Lag BaOmer. You would be forgiven for thinking that it’s just one big festival over here at the moment but in actual fact Jews are currently in the period of mourning which is Omer, the 50 day period between Passover and Shavuot. Lag Ba’Omer is the one day (the 33rd day) that is a day of celebration during this time.
Here goes with the 39 & Counting rundown of the reasons for this holiday (Jewish readers look away now):
The Omer period is counted from the exodus from Egypt at Passover to the giving of the Torah at Shavuot
The Omer period of mourning is for the victims of a plague in the time of Rabbi Akiva, the Rabbi from the time of the destruction of the 2nd temple.
The mourning is lifted and celebrations occur on Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of Omer) because the dying of the plague victims ceased on this day.
It is also the day that marks the death of 2nd Century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author and first teacher of the Kabbalah book, the Zohar.
It also marks the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire led by Bar Kokhba
The holiday is marked with bonfires symbolising the light of the Torah (other reasons are also given here) and in more modern interpretations, to celebrate the heroics of Bar Kokhba in leading the revolt.
For many Israelis Lag BaOmer means a few things in their modern lives. Firstly it’s the only day between Passover and Succhot that you can get married, secondly it’s a time when children of all ages gather and make bonfires, everywhere and anywhere. For me it’s the night 9 years ago that my husband proposed.
At least a week before, the hunt for the best bits of wood starts with none too ethical tactics being used by some older children to bag the best haul (didn’t we have a fence yesterday?) . In the run up to the actual day the organised nursery and school fires take place culminating in the busiest night for the fire brigade when older kids try to outdo each other with the most enormous mountain of a fire possible. Not the safest of holidays.
Luck is on the emergency service’s side this year because shock horror it has been raining, a lot, for a week. This is pretty much unheard of at this time of year, it’s certainly the latest in the year that I’m still rocking my winter boots since I moved here. The ground is damp, the wood is wet and instead of having a week of smokey smog it looks like it may only be a couple of days. So be safe kids and we’ll be wrapping up warm a la Guy Fawkes night when we’re huddled around the fire tomorrow night.