Bonfires in Meron (file)
Bonfires in Meron (file) Flash 90

All roads leading to the northern town of Meron and the grave of the famous Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) have been closed on Wednesday, ahead of the Lag B'Omer celebrations starting Wednesday night that attract tens of thousands every year.

Access to the region will only be possible via public transportation, with police saying the closures will continue until Friday ahead of the start of Shabbat.

Lag B'Omer marks the 33rd day between the festivals of Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot. It is widely celebrated as the date of the passing of the Talmudic-era sage Rashbi, to whom the classic text on Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, is widely attributed.

Before passing away in the 2nd century CE and being buried in Meron, Rashbi is said to have revealed great secrets to his students and told them to celebrate his passing instead of mourning. Therefore, many Jews celebrate the day by visiting his tomb in Meron, and throughout the country it is widely celebrated with large bonfires.

The holiday also marks when a "plague" was lifted that had killed thousands of students of the famous Talmudic-era Rabbi Akiva; his students are said by many to have been massacred by the occupying Roman army for taking part in the revolt against them.

Thousands of officers from the northern district will take part in the operation to secure and organize the Lag B'Omer celebrations in Meron, under the direction of Northern District Commander Maj. Gen. Zohar Dvir.

Likewise the traffic branch of the police, Border Patrol, and advanced technological means including a zeppelin and helicopters for a live video feed to monitor the events from the air will be deployed.

The fire department, Magen David Adom (MDA), IDF Homefront Command, and the governmental authority tasked with maintaining holy sites will also take part in the event to ensure its smooth passage.

"As part of the process of employing the lessons learned in previous years we worked to improve a number of areas, with an emphasis on public security and preserving public order," the police said in a statement.

The statement noted that the actions taken include "opening an additional emergency route (by) the Meron stream on the eastern side, increasing the sites for women by building new stands, using large viewing screens to present the lighting ceremonies to prevent overcrowding, and other actions."

All of the steps are being taken "with a goal of preventing congestion and preserving public security," added the police.

An information hotline for the public has been opened by the police in preparation for the event, which can be reached at 1-700-500-679.