The Complexities And Costs Surrounding The Massive Lag B’Omer In Meron

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About half a million people at a cost of NIS 15.5 million will visit the tziyun of the Rashbi in Meron during Lag B’Omer. The Ministry of Religious Services presents all the data for the Lag B’Omer Campaign, 2019.

“This is one of the most complex events that the State of Israel maintains,” says attorney Oded Flus, Director-General of the Ministry of Religious Services. “This is 24 hours, on one site that is supposed to contain half a million people. This explains the complexity of preparing such an operation.”

The Director of Israel’s Holy Sites, Rabbi Yosef Schwinger, relates that Lag B’Omer preparations begin about a year in advance. “The day after Lag B’Omer we are already preparing for the next year’s celebration. This includes drawing lessons and coordinating with many government ministries and local authorities and public bodies.”

Seven government ministries are involved in the preparation of the celebration. The Ministry of Religious Services this year allocated NIS 15.5 million to the Ministry of Public Security, which secured about 5,000 police officers who will provide security for the many visitors. The police are equipped with new technology. The Ministry of Transport allocates about 4,000 buses, which will carry out about 7,000 trips back and forth. The Ministry of Finance supervises the financing and budgeting of various government ministries and there is the Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galil.

This year, Israel Railways is adding additional service to accommodate travelers to Meron as well. The Ministry of Transportation, Israel Railways and the Israel Police say that the decision to operate the train is because it is an efficient transportation vehicle capable of transporting tens of thousands of passengers safely and efficiently. This results in the removal of dozens of buses and hundreds of vehicles from the road.

Minister of Religious Services Yitzhak Vaknin explained the change in the investment channel: “The Ministry’s investment in religious services is significant and this includes the Lag B’Omer celebration. We are not interested every year in investing the same money in infrastructure. Therefore, as part of a strategic approach, we decided to invest in permanent infrastructure that will serve the public for years. Long-term investment.” Minister Vaknin has participated in the Lag B’Omer celebration for the past decade.

Vaknin adds, “The difficult problem of Meron’s event is that there is no producer for the event and there is no single body that is responsible for the event.”

“This year we were blessed with a rainy winter that caused damage to parking lots and we worked to repair the damage at a cost of half a million shekels,” adds Director-General Flus.

Rabbi Yosef Schwinger adds, “This year we added another four dunams to the area of lighting. The visitors will enjoy a new route to the tziyun thanks to the help of Minister Aryeh Deri, who invested NIS 9.5 million along with the great help and support of Deputy Minister of Finance MK Yitzhak Cohen.”

Israel Railways is currently busy closing the final technical details, what cities trains will depart from and related details. The train will take riders to Carmiel and from there, there will be free shuttle buses to and from the tziyun.

Rabbi Yisrael Deri, director of the northern district of the holy sites, noted that this year, each parking lot will be painted a different color. The buses will park in the parking lots according to the colors of the ticket. On one’s descent from the mountain the roads leading to the parking lots will be painted according to the color of the parking lot.

The sewage and infrastructure system was further upgraded thanks to a budgetary investment by the Ministry of Religious Services and last year another traffic lane was paved in the area of Meron, which will ease traffic congestion.

Organizers explain the event will pass peacefully if persons buy bus and train tickets in advance and avoid arriving by car in to the Har Meron area and one should travel according to Waze directions.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)




4 COMMENTS

  1. Do not for a moment think that this is out of the goodness of their heart. Lag Ba’Omer celebration at Meron is a huge money maker. I’m not criticizing anything or anyone — I’m all in favor of such celebrations. But let’s not lose sight of what is going on behind the scenes.

  2. american_yerushalmi – A ‘huge money maker’ – for who? The government gives the money that makes the event possible. Are you contending that the government is actually making money off of the event? How?

  3. Yagel Libi: aside from the “iru’a ha’merkazit” in Meron, there are numerous smaller celebrations at the tziyun throughout Lag Ba’Omer. Many different groups make their own party featuring their own “hadlaka.” To be able to put on a suitably respectable “happening” for a particular rav or chassishe rebbe, a certain amount of money has to change hands. There is a price list for this. A nighttime hadlaka costs more than one conducted during the daytime. There are three primary Chareidi groups that can make or break this. I prefer not to name names here, but these groups are “in charge” of what goes on at Meron. For any group or chassidus that wants to conduct a respectable hadlaka, properly located in the right area of the tziyun, and get adequate media coverage — well, this doesn’t happen for free.
    Aside from that, every bus and train ticket sold, every bottle of water or cola that is sold there — the vendors pay income tax to the government. There are tax inspectors mingling in the crowd checking if vendors are recording transactions, etc. (Of course, some of the food and drink is donated and distributed free of charge.)
    So, yes, it’s business in another form. Nothing wrong with celebrating Lag Ba’Omer — but just be aware of what’s behind much of the hoopla at Meron.