A Lag BaOmer Postscript

The big news about Lag BaOmer 5779 was the weather. That is, if you followed the mainstream media coverage.

It was going to be 100 degrees in the shade (in some places it was), predicted the Israel Meteorological Service. It was dangerous to even go outside, let alone travel to Meron and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in that heaving mass of perspiring humanity, warned the Health Ministry.

It was going to be the day the Earth caught fire. Stay-home-and-pray day.

Well, most people understood that this was just the secular media’s way of trying to discourage and downplay one of the great Jewish events of the year. They tried to reduce the joy, peace, unity and soul-searing spirituality of Lag BaOmer to an extreme weather advisory. And they failed.

Something on the order of a half million people came anyway. Yes, it was hot, but it wasn’t the first time Lag BaOmer has been hot. (Granted, not this hot.) But there was plenty to drink and some shade to be found and, if anybody felt like swooning, there were legions of medical and rescue teams hovering about, ready to save you, not to mention all those good Yidden sharing your tiny space.

In other words, the weather was over-covered. And the actual event, the ruchniyus, was under-covered, or not covered at all.

Another aspect of Lag BaOmer also went conspicuously unremarked: transportation. Every year, transportation is the talk of Lag BaOmer. The chareidi papers print elaborate schedules for departures and returns to and from Meron from everywhere from Rosh Hanikra and Kiryat Shemona to Be’er Sheva and Eilat. The point, of course, is to help you get there and back.

But then, when the wheels start to turn, the media reports are all about the vast network of buses and shuttles from all over the country breaking down in a vast anti-network of chaos. We read about the misery on the roads, families stranded under the broiling sun or in the middle of the night, with no way there or no way home.

Months of organizing come to nothing. A perfect storm of inefficiency. All the meetings between askanim and police and bus companies to coordinate the monster once again ends in disaster. How can it be? It’s not in the natural course of events. Was there a Heavenly decree to thwart their elaborate planning?

But this year… nothing. If you looked for transportation hysteria in the news, you would have found nothing.

The obvious inference is that, since the media would have been delighted to report another transportation debacle — and did not — therefore, the operation must have run to perfection, or at least as close to it as one can get in this imperfect world.

The organizers deserve medals, dinners in their honor, streets named after them in Meron.

Yet, not a word.

Why did no one report this?

The obvious answer is the old saw that bad news is news; good news isn’t news. It is simply the nature of the journalistic mind to write about the foul-ups, quote the complaints and find someone to blame.

Blaming the journalists isn’t entirely fair, either. They are seeking the largest number of readers, and in the belief — not unfounded — that more people want to read about things going wrong than right, they report the former.

Besides, when an editor assigns a reporter to a story, a scene of mayhem lends itself much more readily to journalistic description than things running smoothly. What is a reporter to say when he sees a bus arrive on time? Not much drama there.

It is also in the interests of the anti-religious to blame the religious for everything possible, from a dip in the economic growth rate to the failure of the coalition talks. Even when the religious community itself is the only one suffering, as when Lag BaOmer at Meron runs into trouble, it must be their own fault. When things go right, the anti-religious aren’t exactly eager to credit religious leaders with fine organization, and lay people with a spirit of peaceful cooperation.

The media is simply not equipped to tell the tale when things work out smoothly and the story of a beautiful event is the only one there is to tell.