Video:Tens of Thousands Celebrate Lag Ba'Omer in Meron
Tens of thousands of people have flocked to Meron in honor of the hilula [memorial celebration] for the mystic sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of the seminal kabbalistic text, the Zohar, and to take part in the Lag Ba'Omer bonfire lighting near his grave. (Read "All About Lag Ba'Omer here)
Rashbi and his son spent 13 years in a cave hiding from the Romans, who accused him of sedition, subsisting on carobs and water from a spring - both miraculously found in their hiding place.
Lag Ba'Omer, the 33rd of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, is considered the day on which the innermost secrets of the Torah were revealed by Rashbi as he was surrounded by an aura of light - one of the reasons for the bonfires. It is also the day celebrating the stoppage of a plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's disciples in the early 2nd century C.E.
Events will include students meeting to learn Torah with residents from Elon Moreh and Yizhar and Torah lectures about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who was also a prolific Torah scholar with over 3000 halakhot attributed to him.
There is all night hassidic dancing accompanied by songs about Rashbi and the haunting nigunnim (melodies) of Miron..
Melodious chants are sung responsively, over and over, line by line, by the Boyaner hassidim, whose Rebbe starts the evening festivities by lighting a central torch on an outdoor stage: "Bar Yochai, you have been annointed with holy oil", "Bar Yochai, blessed is she who gave birth to you - lucky is the naion that learns from you - and blessed are those who understand your mystic secrets", "Hail to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, his Torah protects us as it enlightens us, may he say good things about us in the heavens, our master, Bar Yochai."
The authorities' preparations for the hilula in Miron take weeks. Police commander Eli Krisphil for the Northern District told Arutz Sheva, "We are fully deployed, and have been since early morning.
"People are using distant parking lots, leaving the cities, and even walking toward the mountain. We have police in all these places, to allow the masses to arrive smoothly.
"There are big parking lots for private vehicles that people can take buses from to get here, according to the plan we have in place. All necessary emergency services are in place, and we are guarding the festivities with 1,200 police officers," Krisphil said.
MDA Director General Eli Bin instructed MDA stations in the region to bolster the number of paramedics and ambulances on hand to deal with possible emergencies, smoke inhalation, and burns from the bonfires.