Gravesite of Rashbi in Meron
Gravesite of Rashbi in Meron Flash 90

Israel's Religious Affairs Ministry, together with the Justice Ministry, has drafted a legal memorandum to regulate this year's annual Lag Ba'omer pilgrimage to Mount Meron.

According to a Kan News report Thursday morning, a special permit will be required to visit the site during the event marking the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi).

Those who are found at the site without a permit will be fined 500 NIS ($153), Kan added.

The memorandum also states that the number of permits will be limited, and that the Religious Affairs Minister will only issue one permit to light a bonfire on Mount Meron.

In January, it was reported that shaded areas for both men and women are being set up at the site, and that there will also be dedicated areas where the traditional first haircut parties can be held. Only public transportation will be allowed at Mount Meron, and tickets allowing participation during set hours will be sold ahead of the event. According to the Religious Affairs Ministry, unlike in previous years, there will be no VIP attendees and private vehicles will not be permitted to enter the site.

The memorandum is part of an effort to ensure the safety of visitors to Mount Meron, which is home to the gravesite of Rashbi. Last year, 45 people were crushed to death in a stampede which many noted could have been avoided, had the appropriate steps been taken.

The danger was first mentioned in 2018 by a haredi journalist, Aryeh Ehrlich. In a tweet then, he wrote, "First call to order: The narrow exit path leading from the bonfire area of the Toldot Aharon hasidic group creates a human bottleneck and horrendous shoving, on the level of an actual danger of being crushed."

In that tweet, he emphasized that, "This is the only exit."

"If we want to prevent a repeat of what happened at Rabbi Wosner's funeral - we cannot hold the bonfire lighting at this place before we create a wide exit with signage."

Indeed, three years later that same exit path became known in Hebrew as the "hallway of death." It was demolished in January this year.