Lag BaOmer, 2022

By Hamodia Staff

YERUSHALAYIM – The traditional lighting by the Boyaner Rebbe, shlita, of the main bonfire at Meron this Lag BaOmer was conducted as every year, though the annual celebration looked very different from previous years.

The joy and unity of the Jewish people on the great event in the calendar was evident as always, but to be sure there was a scaling-down.

After the terrible tragedy in which 45 people were killed last year due to inadequate safety measures, extensive renovations of the site of the Kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai have been undertaken to ensure public safety. But that has come at a price: the scaling back of the massive crowds.

This year, authorities have been allowing only 16,000 visitors into the compound at a given time, making the dangerous overflow crowds of hundreds of thousands a thing of the past.

At 6:00 p.m. Israel time, a memorial service was held for the 45 who perished in last year’s crush, with the Boyaner Rebbe lighting a candle for each of the neshamos.

Accommodating themselves to the new restrictions, the public obtained tickets and traveled to the site as instructed. As such, the site was filled to capacity from early evening on Wednesday.

Despite the new restrictions, and the memory of those who perished last year, following the mass davening of Maariv, Counting the Omer (the 33rd day) and the recitation of Tehillim, singing and dancing followed. The beauty of Lag BaOmer, of Jews from every group and all over the world celebrating together could not be suppressed.

As it was well-publicized in advance, a heavy police presence was there to enforce the rules.

“There are limitations on the number of people allowed on the mountain so only 16,000 will be permitted there at any given moment,” Police Northern District Chief Shimon Lavi said. “If you do not have a ticket, you simply have no business coming to Meron.”

Police said they would enforce the four-hour rule limiting each visitor’s stay, and that if there is no cooperation from the public, many will be kept away in order to maintain the limit set.

“The police will act decisively against any attempt to disrupt the celebrations,” a statement released on Tuesday read.

Indeed, some felt they were doing their job too well.

“It’s empty inside,” one person was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel.

He said he traveled four hours from Yerushalayim, but only got 30 seconds inside the kever site.

Photographs showed the area at the kever empty, in contrast to past years when it was the most crowded location of all, such that one could hardly move.

However, Raphael Poch, theinternational media spokesperson for United Hatzalah, told Hamodia that he has a picture of mispallelim at the kever on Wednesday. Poch said that “the security guards inside at the kever were slowly escorting people inside in small groups.”

He observed that things were going smoothly, no crowding, no disruptions. It was “much smaller than last year, of course.”

At about 9:30, police decided not to permit arriving buses to enter the area during the hadlakah of the Boyaner Rebbe, and the people there were asked to leave, “slowly and with attention to tznius.”

A few minutes later, police officials gave the dozens of buses the green light to enter then mount.

According to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, as of 9:40 there have been no significant incidents requiring medical treatment, though a few people required care after feeling dehydrated.

As the event began and visitors began to enter, the medical and rescue teams of Hatzalah said they stood ready to assist in case of need. Doctors and paramedics from across the country who responded in last year’s tragedy were back, to again provide their dedicated service, this time hopefully with a happier conclusion.

For them, it was an emotional time, a closing of the circle.

They were not alone. All Klal Yisrael followed the event, watched and shared in the joyful scene, going forward from tragedy to great simchah.

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