Several municipalities lead initiatives to bring together classes for one bonfire instead of many separate ones; meanwhile, outcry over shortage of buses to Meron for hillula.
Meir Turgeman, Isaac Dabush, Itzchak Tessler|Published: 10.05.17 , 12:36

Lag B’Omer, a Jewish festival celebrated with the lighting of bonfires, will be a little more environmentally friendly this year as efforts are made in Israel to light less fires.

In Kiryat Ono, parents of kindergarten-aged children decided to light one joint bonfire for all five of the kindergartens in the city instead of doing separate ones.

“This prevents unnecessary air pollution and requires us to gather less wood,” said one mother. “Besides, it also creates an opportunity for many of the children to meet.”

The Yavne municipality will also organize one big bonfire for all schoolchildren in the city and their families. In Ramat HaSharon, children from the Nitzan kindergarten already celebrated Lag B’Omer on Tuesday, lighting a bonfire with 5th graders from the Ussishkin elementary school.

In Ness Ziona, students from the Argaman school decided not to light a bonfire at all. “We decided to go with the parents’ idea of celebrating Lag B’Omer in an alternative way, without a bonfire but with social activity for the students that includes the holiday’s traditions,” the school’s administration said.

Fifteen of the school’s classes decided to join the alternative celebration, while three classes decided to light a bonfire, albeit a smaller one.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Ministry ordered on Tuesday to stop selling bus tickets to the Yom Hillula (anniversary of death) celebration at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s grave in Meron following complaints of scalpers selling tickets at exaggerated prices.

In addition, some 600 buses—a third of all public transportation needed for the Meron hillula—will be otherwise occupied driving children to school on Sunday morning after the Education Ministry moved the school vacation day from Sunday to Monday at the request of Israel’s chief rabbis, who were concerned of Shabbat desecration on Saturday night.

But while the Chief Rabbinate decided to postpone the holiday, the ultra-Orthodox celebrating the hillula decided to hold it in its original date. That, combined with the fact the hillula is expected to draw larger crowds than previous years, exacerbate the problem.

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee discussed the hillula celebrations, which every year bring hundreds of thousands of people to Meron, learning that some 70,000 people won’t be able to get there because of the shortage in buses.

MK Dudu Amsalem, the committee’s chairman, criticized the expected shortage of buses, saying it’ll lead to overcrowding on the buses that will head to Meron. He also expressed concern the situation will cause many to be late to the main bonfire lighting event, even though it was postponed to 1:30am so people won’t have to desecrate the Shabbat by traveling before it ends.

Israel Railways will have a train leaving after the end of Shabbat towards Meron, stopping at the Ahihud station where shuttles to Meron will be provided.

This will be “quiet launch” of the new train to Carmiel, which will leave from Beit Shemesh, stop at the Tel Aviv-Savidor Center station and then head straight to Ahihud, where it will terminate as the Carmiel station is not ready.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz will travel on the Carmiel train’s debut trip on Saturday night, but the event is not being advertised to avoid overcrowding.,7340,L-4960107,00.html