Scene from Meron, Lag Ba'Omer
Scene from Meron, Lag Ba'Omer Israel news photo: Flash 90

Magen David Adom emergency medical service is already making preparations for the massive influx of Jews expected to converge on the mountaintop grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for the anniversary of his passing.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Jews stream to the site from around the world to mark the event, noted on the Hebrew calendar as the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer.  

A great Torah sage and mystic, Rabbi Shimon spent 13 years living with his son in a cave high up in the Galilean hillside, surviving only on carob that grew from a tree at the mouth of the cave, hiding from the Romans during the Second Temple period.

The holiday also commemorates the ending of a terrible plague that raged through 24,000 disciples of the great Torah sage, Rabbi Akiva, a contemporary of Rabbi Shimon. On Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day in the 49-day period between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks), the dying ended.

Israelis celebrate the holiday with bonfires that light up the night and dot the landscape throughout the country – from the very southernmost tip of the Jewish State, in Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea, to the northernmost points of the country in Kiryat Shmona and Rosh Hanikra.

Last year MDA treated at least 500 cases of minor burns, bruises and fainting during the annual pilgrimage of those who made their way to Meron to dance the night away at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The day is known to be a moment of Divine Benevolence, and prayers at the tomb of a tzaddik, a righteous person, are especially accepted.

This year MDA plans to provide 15 ambulances to worshipers at Meron, as well as four mobile ICUs (intensive care units), dozens of motorcycles and ATVs.

In addition, the emergency medical service will have hundreds of medics on hand, along with a helicopter in case of special need.

“We look forward to everyone going home safely, healthy and well,” MDA Director Eli Bin said, but added his staff is ready for any possible scenario.