Police Prepare for Crowds in Meron on Lag Ba'Omer

Tens of thousands expected to attend traditional 'hillula' celebration - and police are ready to battle congestion.

Hezki Baruch and Tova Dvorin ,

Bonfires in Meron (file)
Bonfires in Meron (file)

The Israel police presented members of the Knesset Interior Committee Wednesday with their preparations ahead of the traditional hillula festival on Mount Meron on Lag Ba'Omer. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend. 

Commander Yossi Hamo, operations officer of the Israel Police's Northern District, updated the MKs on police deployment planned for the area and emphasized that safety and security are top priority for police during Lag B'Omer events.

Thirteen separate bonfires are expected to be lit over the course of next Wednesday and Thursday, Hamo noted.

Entrance to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai will be one-way, he added, with monitors and organizers present to ensure that visitors do not get trampled at the popular prayer spot. Police will have specific instructions how to deal with the situation. 

5,000 policemen will be deployed to Meron during the festivities, he said - 1,000 more than in 2014. Special efforts have been made to recruit female officers for the task to ensure safety in womens' sections of events as well. 

A special pathway has been set aside for use by the Hasidic sects of Toldot Aharon and Toldot Avraham for their bonfire ceremony toward the Meron River, as well. The pathway consists of a pedestrian walkway, at the end of which will be waiting more than 100 buses for various Hasidic groups. 

The new pathway prevents congestion down Mount Meron due to the large turnout, and to avoid tight traffic in nearby parking lots, he added. 

Commander Hamo told members of the Knesset Committee, which is headed by MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), that all police officers are already receiving special training ahead of Lag Ba'Omer, with specific instructions regarding the uniqueness of the pilgramage to the site. 

Commander Ilan Mor, head of the executive arm of the traffic department, is coordinating a complex bus and private transport network ahead of the event, following lessons learned from last year's congestion. 

For the first time, the Ministry of Transport has assumed responsibility for the management of the local bus system for the day, and public transport engineers planned the temporary parking lots and terminals. Parking lots will be delineated with a color-coded system; buses from remote locations will unload in a yellow lot, buses from other Galilee towns in a blue lot, and private buses from schools and other institutions will unload in a red lot. In all, 3,400 buses are expected to travel to Meron. 

The discussion emphasized the unequivocal recommendation of the police to the masses who visit to use the bus system instead of private transport.