Lag Ba’Omer in Meiron
by Talia Goldberg, Community Shlicha
When I was in twelfth grade, I lived in a commune up in the city of Tzfat, with 7 other girls. I was a practicing orthodox jew and lived my life in a very different way than I do now. Tzfat is seen as a city in the sky, where you live a very religious life. Tzfat is a very Kabalistic city (from the word kabbalah - which according to Wikipedia is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.)
One of the activities I participated in back in those days was to go to Meiron on Lag Ba’Omer to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. According to popular legend, he and his son, Eleazar b. Simeon, were noted Kabbalists. Both of these men are held in unique reverence by Kabbalistic tradition. They were both buried in the same tomb in Meron, Israel, which is visited by thousands year round.
Lag Ba’Omer in Meiron is a very elevating experience. Thousands of religious Jews come together to celebrate and connect on Lag Ba’Omer. I would always run into people I knew and when in Meiron, you are part of this crazy crowded party. Some of what happens in Meiron is praying for yourself and dancing and singing and watching the lighting of the torches. It's a very busy night and most stay really late into the night. There are busses coming and going all night long.
The terrible tragedy that happened this past week is very hard for me. This tragedy could have happened in one of the years I was there. I know there were definitely people I know who were there last week. This festival has been this crazy busy for years now and no one thought to make access and passage ways better.
On April 30, 2021, at about 00:50 IDT, a deadly crowd crush occurred in Meron, Israel, during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer. About 100,000 people were in attendance. Forty-five people were killed, and about 150 injured, dozens of them critically, making it the deadliest civil disaster in the history of Israel. All of the victims at the gender-segregated event were men and boys. The crush occurred after celebrants poured out of one section of the mountainside compound, down a passageway with a sloping metal floor wet with spilled drinks, leading to a staircase continuing down. Witnesses say that people tripped and slipped near the top of the stairs. Those behind, unaware of the blockage ahead, continued, crushing the people further down.
These are very sad days for us all, but like Israelis we stand in unity together and in these trying times you see more love and more support towards people than ever.
May we know how to be supportive in all times, and manage to love anyone no matter how different they are from us.