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Politicians Make Moves on Thousands Gathered for Lag B’omer Festivities

May 21, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The politicians moved in in force on this year’s traditional Lag B’Omer festivities at Meron in the Galilee.

They could hardly have been expected to stay away, as some quarter of a million potential voters descended on the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai beginning Wednesday at sundown. Bar Yochai was the second century sage reputed to have authored the Zohar, the central text of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah.

The idea of politicians working the crowds on a religious occasion angered the chief rabbi of nearby Safed. But it delighted the town’s Likud mayor, Ze’ev Perl, who apparently saw an advantage for his party.

All the major political parties applied to the police for permission to set up stages from which party leaders could address the crowd.

Lag B’Omer is the 33rd of the 50 days separating Passover and Shavuot. According to tradition, it marks the end of the plague that decimated the pupils of Rabbi Akiva during the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans. It is therefore known as the festival of scholars.

Festival customs at the Meron hilltop include giving 3-year-old boys their first haircuts. Barren woman pray at the tomb for the sage to intercede, allowing them to conceive.

Bonfires are lit throughout the area, creating a nightmare for the local fire brigades. The Red Magen David’s paramedical services are also on call to treat people who become ill or are hurt in accidents.

Many are victims of exposure. Sleeping in tents or makeshift shelters, they fail to take into account the frosty nighttime temperatures on the Galilee hills.

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