These are my personal reflections on last night’s terrible tragedy at Mt Meron’s Lag BaOmer celebrations, with 44 dead (as of this writing), 150 injured and several fighting for their lives. This on a night many celebrate the minor Lag BaOmer holiday.
I was at the Kikar (now called Rabin Square) with my family in November 1995, the last night of the national mourning shiva for Yitzhak Rabin z”l. We first saw it on TV and decided to be personally part of Israel’s equivalent of the Kennedy assassination and spontaneously drove to Tel Aviv, with our boys, parked and walked to the Kikar.
At the end of Leah Rabin z”l’s speech, we felt a real messianic moment of unity and respect for each other, as Aviv Gefen sang and the rest of us in the huge crowd (tens of thousands) sadly singing together — Livkot Lecha לבכות לך (cry of you – Yesh Li Haverim — I have Friends!
Afterwards, from the stage the organizers asked for us all to quietly and carefully depart. We were so hemmed in, we couldn’t even turn around. We all started to slowly walk backwards for over a kilometer, like when you leave the Western Wall — Kotel or — the presence of a king or queen. Until the crowd started to thin out, and we could walk back to our car at the Tel Aviv Reading parking lot.
Not even one person was hurt in that gathering or our departure!
So many people died during the Sefirat HaOmer period. Rav Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) died on Lag BaOmer (and wanted people to celebrate his going up to heaven). Students of Rabbi Akiva were not respectful and too judgmental of others and caused a plague of deaths. Sinat Hinam — senseless judgment and gloating over our fellow man and woman!
Last night’s awful tragedy at Mt. Meron on Lag BaOmer left 44 dead and 150 seriously injured and many fighting for their lives. Two years ago, on Lag BaOmer, good friends of mine lost their homes in the huge Ben Shemen – Mevo Modiim forest fire which may have been from arson or careless, selfish people with their Lag BaOmer bonfires after the authorities forbade them due to similar hot, dry weather. There were other fires that day.
Personally, I have never totally connected to Lag BeOmer as a festive holiday. Israel’s Independence Day and Jerusalem Unification Day (my Hebrew birthday) are festive and we recite festive Psalms (Hallel). Lag BaOmer is much more ancient and rooted, yet we never recited Hallel… because it really is not that kind of day. Nor should it be!
Instead of pretending Lag BaOmer is that kind of holiday (which it isn’t), let us begin to mark this day with sobriety and helping and respecting each other. We are always in the presence of the King of Kings, who wants us to walk slowly backwards and respect those in front, behind and at our sides!
It’s not about you or me! You and I have friends!
~ FE King