A High Court petition was filed by a group of parents Monday against the Education Ministry’s decision to move the Lag B’Omer school vacation day from Sunday May 14 to the following day.
Lag B’Omer, set to officially begin on Saturday night, May 13, is traditionally marked by bonfires. It memorializes the death of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai.
Fearing that people would desecrate Jewish day of rest by beginning to prepare for or burn bonfires before sundown on Saturday, the Education Ministry decided last month to move the vacation day from Sunday to Monday.
The decision, given with only only three weeks’ warning, angered many parents whose vacation and work plans were upended. In addition, the move required the postponement of exams that had been scheduled to take place that day, aggravating affected students as well.
Eighteen parents, including Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, submitted the petition, which proposed two solutions to alleviate the inconvenience: either to move the vacation day back to Sunday as originally planned or to designate both Sunday and Monday as days off.
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have announced that they would still celebrate the holiday according to the Hebrew calendar date.
Environmental groups have warned that the switch of Lag B’Omer festivities will negatively impact air quality in Israel, with two nights of bonfires covering the country with smoke instead of just one.
While recognizing the inconvenience for some, the Education Ministry says the decision was made in coordination with teachers following a request from the Chief Rabbinate.