Tens of thousands at Meron for downsized Lag B’Omer rites

Tens of thousands of pilgrims have made their way to the Mount Meron tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for ceremonies marking the anniversary of his death some 19 centuries ago and the minor holiday of Lag B’Omer.

Police are heavily deployed across the mountainside shrine, which usually sees several hundred thousand visitors on Lag B’Omer.

Authorities have instituted a number of safety measures meant to avoid a repeat of last year, when 45 people were killed in a crush of bodies on an illegally built ramp. Entrance to the site is set to be limited to 120,000 people, with only 16,000 allowed in the tomb compound at any given time, though questions have been raised about enforcement of the cap. The format of the event has also changed, with one large bonfire replacing six slightly smaller ones lit in years past.

The government has also fixed stairs and other infrastructure around the compound.

A Netanya resident speaking to Walla says he is going to the event, despite knowing some of last year’s victims and having lingering fears over safety.

“The pictures from there don’t calm me, I’m not sure the [walkways] will handle all the people,” he is quoted saying. “120,000 people is a ton, and also, there will be more than 120,000…. It’s a huge merit to come here and pray. I’m coming despite everything.”

No major disturbances or issues have been reported.

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