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Opinion: For a grieving Israel, a joyous vacation will ceaselessly be tainted


Some 100,000 individuals had gathered to rejoice the Jewish vacation of Lag B’Omer, a vacation I historically check with as ‘Bonfire Night time.’ The vacation is not simple to categorize. It is a non secular one which can also be celebrated in non-religious communities throughout Israel and the Jewish world with bonfires, music, dancing, singing and the standard pilgrimage to Mount Meron, outdoors town of Safed, the place Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried.

Rabbi Shimon, a revered rabbinical and non secular authority who lived in Israel in the course of the second century in the course of the destruction of the Second Temple by Israel’s Roman occupiers, can also be thought to be the daddy of Kabbalism or Jewish mysticism. Customized says that anybody who prays at Rabbi Shimon’s grave, particularly on Lag B’Omer, can have their prayers answered.
However this 12 months’s conventional pilgrimage to his grave ended within the disaster of a lethal stampede as 1000’s have been exiting the location. How this occurred would be the topic of an ongoing investigation over the approaching days and weeks. And as Israel mourns this unimaginable loss — one of many worst peacetime tragedies within the nation’s historical past — there’s a collective grief and sorrow uniting all Jews from the secular and conventional to the fashionable and ultra-Orthodox, Sephardic and Ashkenazi.
I haven’t got phrases to explain the ache reverberating all through the nation and the Jewish world as a complete. On Saturday, the Jewish day of Sabbath, it was uncommon to not hear individuals talking about what occurred or to seek out out that somebody you have been sharing a meal with knew both a sufferer or a survivor of this horrible evening. Like many others, I spent a lot of Shabbat in shock and tears — sorrow that intensified as video emerged exhibiting photographs of paramedics performing CPR on a number of victims in the midst of the crowded walkway space whereas the injured cried and yelled for assist.
The grief was compounded by the truth that it occurred on Lag B’Omer, the thirty third day of the Omer interval that falls between Passover and the pageant of Shavuot and commemorates the horrific plague that took the lives of some 24,000 college students of the Jewish sage, Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is claimed to be considered one of solely 5 college students who survived that mysterious plague, making his contribution to the continuation of Jewish examine and his place among the many sages particularly vital.

It’s believed that earlier than Rabbi Shimon died on Lag B’Omer, he known as on his disciples to rejoice as an alternative of mourn after they commemorated him. From a non secular perspective in Judaism, lighting bonfires on the website of his grave (and anyplace Lag B’Omer is well known) is meant to indicate the immense “mild” that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai left behind on this world.

From a modern-day perspective, Friday’s large gathering at Meron in a means additionally symbolized the celebration of Israel’s re-emergence from one other devastating plague that has shaken the world — coronavirus. Israel’s profitable vaccination marketing campaign has introduced a semblance of normality again to the nation, which implies giant gatherings just like the pilgrimage to Mount Meron are being permitted as soon as extra.

As Covid-19 surges globally, Israel is emerging into post-pandemic life
The pandemic hit Israel’s ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic communities particularly onerous, and it is many from these communities who collect at Mount Meron to mark this auspicious vacation.

Lag B’Omer, presupposed to mark the transfer from a interval of sorrow and mourning to a interval of pleasure, was one thing that this 12 months specifically many associated to on a private stage. Till the Omer interval ends on the day of the vacation, it’s customary to watch indicators of mourning for the lives misplaced. For the observant, this ban on actions consists of listening to music, slicing hair or shaving, internet hosting weddings, events or any occasion that might result in dancing.

Now Friday’s Lag B’Omer — and people sooner or later — will all the time have a component of grief and disappointment tainting the immense pleasure that’s supposed to come back with the vacation.

A video that appeared simply minutes earlier than the Meron tragedy confirmed 1000’s dancing in unison close to Rabbi Shimon’s grave. They sang about making the world a greater place and said their perception in God’s methods, chanting the phrases, Ani ma’amin b’emuna sheleima, which imply, “I imagine with full religion.”

It was an eerie and foreshadowing second that can now ceaselessly be etched in our collective reminiscence.

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