Lag BaOmer

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Background: Lag BaOmer is holiday just to burn things. Actually it’s a Jewish holiday, exactly 33 days in the Omer – the harvest period between Pesach and Shavout. In Hebrew the numbers are also represented by letters and “lag” is the number 33. The holiday has its roots in the Torah, counting the days of the Omer, but also commemorates the Bar Kochva Rebellion against the Romans led by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon. Israelis and Jews celebrate Lag BaOmer by lighting bonfires. The origin of this is unknown. Some say it “symbolizes the light of the biblical teachings,” and others that it represents mountain top signal fires the rebels used (think Lord of the Rings – when Gondor summons Rohan).

Impressions: I was invited to a bonfire by my church here, and I discovered that these bonfires are not just any bonfires. Sure you gather around and have a BBQ and sing songs. But…

First, it’s a children’s holiday, so children start collecting anything that burns a week or two in advance. Then they get to start the bonfire themselves. Secondly, everyone does it, and it’s not regulated or limited by city or streets or anything: everyone EVERYONE does it. As long as you haves matches and an open space, (or not even), you burn things. On our way to the kibbutz where we made our bonfire I saw tons of bonfires all over the streets. Funny that that one guy predicted the rapture would be today because for me it was like the end of the world. And this was just in Rehovot. Rehovot’s small, I don’t want to see what Tel Aviv or the orthodox districts of Jerusalem look like right now. My lab told me to close my windows tonight because of all the smoke in the air. I live inside the Weizmann, the one place there’s no bonfires so I thought I’d be okay. But I can see the smoke and the haze in the air, and just by walking outside I smell like smoke. It’s almost as bad as Los Angeles. But this holiday is crazy. The whole country gets together to burn things and it’s so prevalent that I’m pretty sure the sea level just rose an inch.

~ by jonathanmtsai on May 21, 2011.

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