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The Predictable Rashbi Disaster Appears Unavoidable

rashbiLike it or not, Lag B’Omer at the tziyun of the Rashbi in Meron has become the nation’s single largest annual gathering of people. There are rabbonim who feel it is nothing more than bitul zman, while many others attach significance to the day, which has become a quasi yomtov for many.

The various state agencies involved continue to shirk their responsibility, juggling issues from one agency to another. Added to this is the fact that 200-250 buses used in the past to transport mispallalim to and from Meron will this year be busy driving school children. This is because of the decision from Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron not to cancel school on Lag B’Omer, preferring to do so on the following day, which this year falls on Monday 19 Iyar.

Chairwoman of the Knesset Internal Affairs & Environment Committee MK (Likud) Miri Regev held a meeting to assess preparedness for the event. During the meeting it became clear that there is not a single government agency accepting responsibility for the operation, each turning its eyes in the direction of others. In Regev’s eyes, the responsibility falls on the Tourism Ministry but ministry officials do not agree. MK Rabbi Uri Maklev feels that any agency receiving responsibility must also obtain the authority to act for the former without the latter is a recipe for failure.

Mr. Dror Gonen, who is in charge of public transportation in the Ministry of Transportation feels his ministry has prepared and there are 1,500 buses that will be serving visitors to and from Meron. There are 3,000 trips to Meron planned beginning with Friday, 16 Iyar. Gonen pointed out that this year private vehicles will be totally banned from the area and this he hopes will significantly improve conditions for buses. There are park and rides far from Meron and from there drivers will have to take buses. From Gonen’s perspective, everything will operate as a finely tuned Swiss watch.

MKs taking part in the meeting turned to representatives of Israel Police and the Transportation Ministry if parking lots were set up in Afula, Tzfas and Carmiel and they were told yes, that is where motorists will have to part with their vehicles. Police also plan to prevent private buses from the area.

Maklev expressed fears that people will be crammed into buses. MK Yaakov Asher added that this is an annual ritual, that the committee meets ahead of Lag B’Omer and the day is accompanied by chaos and disaster for commuters. MK Moshe Gafne added “I have a feeling that if we were talking about an event for non religious Ashkenazim the road to Meron would not remain the narrow inadequate road that it is”.

The meeting ended with Regev expressing dissatisfaction from the apparent lack of preparedness. She feels Israel Police is not doing its job as it should and she fears another transportation collapse. She hopes to meet with Israel Police Traffic Enforcement Unit officials and transportation representatives before Lag B’Omer.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

10 Responses

  1. I will be kind, and not call this a modern day avoda zara. But it is a minhag of late arrival and questionable provenance. Add to this the tunnel vision so common here, to ignore safety basics, to rely on others for basics such as food water and facilities, crowd management, and to ignore dinei gromo, puts this into a sakanta chamira ma’issura. There are also issues of pritut, outright gezel, and gromo gezel attached to this ‘yom tov’. The late gaon opined that ” one who guards his soul should abstain from going there, or to go on a different day”.

  2. It is not a mitsvah to go. It is, as they said back in the 20th century, a “Happening”. People go because they want to be there, and the “chaos” is part of the attraction. Some people want to be part of such a huge SPONTANEOUS mass of yidden. Those who don’t want to go, can stay home and learn.

  3. The government is pushing off Lag Baomer festivities by one day at the request of the Rabbanut. The Rabbanut recognizes that celebrating Lag Baomer on Motsash will result in MASSIVE chillul shabbos and have asked that everything be moved back by one day.

    This is one time I really have to stand with the Rabbanut. Its their responsibility to think of all Jews, and they are doing the right thing.

  4. #1:
    If by a minhag of “late arrival” you mean the time of the Ari HaKadosh – if not earlier – then yes, it is a minhag of “late arrival.” The fact that modern modes of transportation – as opposed to donkeys, which is how Yidden in EY got to Meron from as far away as Yerushalayim and Chevron – has made it accessible to so many doesn’t make the minhag itself a modern invention. And the fact that you may not understand it doesn’t turn into a “modern day avoda zara” and a minhag of “questionable provenance.”

    As far as “relying on others for basics,” what exactly are you talking about? The organizations like Tzidkas HaRashbi and Zaka, who are the ones really in charge of the place?
    What gezel and gromo gezel are you talking about?

    And as for this article, if the government had any sense, it would bow out gracefully and stop trying to take over the site. Transportation was way, way better when private companies were the ones in charge.

  5. I love how people keep saying traditionally it wasn’t a big thing to go without a hint of context. Think about it folks – for the past 2000 some odd years since the patira of Rebbe Shimon the main mode of transportation to Meron was by donkey so is it a big wonder why until this generation there weren’t 100’s of thousands of people coming?

    There are stories of the Ari HaKadosh that he used to travel to Meron to celebrate at the kever on the hillula and Artscroll of all people published a story about him dancing with an old man there he later revealed to be a vision of Rebbe Shimon himself.

  6. so exactly how many police and emergency personnel will be leaving there houses before Shabbos is out in order to deal with crowd and safety issues.

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