150 people treated for injuries at annual Lag B’Omer festival
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150 people treated for injuries at annual Lag B’Omer festival

Tens of thousands flock to Mount Meron for celebration marked by bonfires; 17 people hospitalized, two in moderate-to-serious condition

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The faithful pray on Mount Meron on May 26, 2016as an ambulance stands by (Courtesy Magen David Adom)
The faithful pray on Mount Meron on May 26, 2016as an ambulance stands by (Courtesy Magen David Adom)

The Magen David Adom emergency service treated 150 people overnight Wednesday-Thursday in northern Israel as tens of thousands of revelers converged on Mount Meron for the annual Lag B’Omer festival.

Seventeen people were taken to the hospital for further treatment. Two people were in moderate-to-serious condition due to alcohol poisoning.

The celebration, marked by bonfires, marks the death of second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who is buried in Meron along with his son.

Hundreds of emergency teams were on standby at the pilgrimage site, manning two clinics, ambulances, first-aid motorbikes, tractor bikes and even Segways. The 150 people requiring treatment in Meron mainly suffered from light burns, excessive drinking, and dehydration, Magen David Adom said.

The 17 people needing additional medical treatment were taken to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed and Poriya Medical Center.

In Jerusalem, firefighters rescued five kittens from being hurled into bonfires.

Unusually high air pollution levels were recorded throughout the country on Thursday morning, Israeli media reported, due to the bonfires lit nationwide.

Last year, police estimated that 60,000 people attended the Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mount Meron. At the time, Magen David Adom paramedics provided treatment to 92 people who suffered minor injuries over the course of the previous all-night celebration in the Galilee.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews seen near a big bonfire, during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'Omer in the eighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )
Ultra-Orthodox Jews seen near a big bonfire, during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer in the eighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on May 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

Shimon Bar Yochai is believed to have resisted Roman rule and subsequently fled to a cave in the Galilee where he lived with his son for 13 years.

Tradition says the two were buried in a tomb on Mount Meron on Lag B’Omer — the 33rd day of the Omer, the seven-week period between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot.

In the days leading up to Lag B’Omer, children can be seen scouring the streets, looking for any scraps of wood they can get their hands on for their bonfires. In certain Jewish communities, it is customary to give 3-year-old boys their first haircut on Lag B’Omer.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews seen near a big bonfire, during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'Omer in neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on May 25, 2016.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews seen near a big bonfire, during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer in neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem on May 25, 2016.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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