The Bnei Akiva youth movement is working this year to ensure its groups around the country protect the environment as well as keep its members safe on the holiday of Lag Ba'Omer.
As boys and girls across Israel prepare to light bonfires when night falls Wednesday evening, at least 40,000 students in some 100 branches of the organization will have read a letter sent by Bnei Akiva Israel director Danny Hershberg, cautioning the groups about the issue.
Hersberg reminded members that beyond the celebration and the important social experience the holiday provides, it is important to also focus on the educational message that must be passed to the youth who attend the activities.
But in addition, he pointed out, there are good ways to make the traditional Lag Ba'Omer bonfires – and not such good ways to do so.
A small, intimate campfire requires fewer trees and causes less pollution, Hershberg said.
Burning plastics, or wood that has been painted or coated with any substance, releases toxins into the air and also causes pollution. Make sure the wood you use has not been processed with anything when you burn it.
Hershberg urged members not to uproot trees that are planted; rather, he said, collected wood from trees that have been tossed aside, or use “deadwood” that is cast away.
Keep water and/or sand nearby with which to later extinguish the blaze before leaving the side of the fire for the night.
Choose a site for the bonfire that is in an open space, with no risk of catching fire to anything else in the area. Fallow and stubble field, especially in the dry areas, are vulnerable to catching fire.
Wastebaskets around the fire are dangerous. Also, it is not wise to leave food scraps, plastic bits or garbage anywhere around. They attract animals to the area, and also are unsightly.
If you use disposable items, please be kind to the environment and those who will follow you to the site the next time, and collect your trash before leaving the area. It makes the world a nicer place to live in.