For Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, the journey to Meron on Wednesday night was a very emotional one.
“This is my last event as Public Security Minister, and I am extremely moved by what I see," Aharonovich told reporters as he observed the lighting of the giant bonfire outside the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai as Lag B'omer celebrations began.
Aharonovich is one of many traditional and secular Israelis who join the throngs celebrating the hilula (Yahrzeit) of the Roman-era rabbinical leader, who is credited with authoring the Zohar, the compendium of Jewish mystical texts that many study daily. Aharonovich considers himself traditional, but is not generally observant.
Thursday is likely to be the last workday for Aharonovich as Public Security Minister, a position he has held since 2009. A member of Yisrael Beytenu, Aharnovich will not be serving in Binyamin Netanyahu's new government, after party head Avigdor Liberman announced earlier this week that he would not join the coalition.
Had Liberman joined the coalition, Aharonovich would have retained the post. With Liberman out of the government, the Public Security portfolio is now “blank,” and will be filled by a Likud member; it is not yet clear which one.
Hundreds of thousands of people were present at the tomb Wednesday night, where large bonfires commemorating the “light of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai's hidden Torah” were lit.
Hundreds of police and rescue officials were on guard, but the night passed without any major incidents. Magen David Adom rescue workers treated 92 people, all of them with light injuries, mostly due to light burns, dehydration, or fainting spells. Twelve were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.