JERUSALEM (VINnews) — The committee of enquiry established by the Israeli government to investigate the Meron tragedy presented its interim recommendations Monday to the government which they said must be implemented by the coming Lag Ba’Omer in order to ensure the safety and security of those visiting the site.
The committee stressed the religious importance of the site which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly and stated that “it is impossible to underestimate the importance of the site for those who journey to Meron during the year and especially on Lag Ba’Omer, which according to tradition is the day Rabbi Shimon passed away and received many Torah secrets.
“The custom of lighting a flame on Lag Ba’Omer symbolizes the light of the Torah revealed to Rashbi and hundreds of thousands come to pray and participate in the joy of the Hilula (memorial) both in song and dancing. An early custom mentioned is the Chalaka -first haircut for a three-year-old boy which is mentioned as the custom of the Arizal. Many wish to continue this tradition.
“There is evidence of a Hilula taking place more than 400 years ago during which the assembled people entered the buildings around the tomb of Rashbi for prayer, celebration, dancing and lighting fires. In the last 200 years the lighting ceremony belonged to the Admor Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin and his descendants, the Boyan Admorim, who lit a fire on the roof of the tomb.”
The main recommendations of the committee include:
- Appointing a minister who will be responsible for the organization and scope of the entire Lag Ba’Omer celebration.
- Establishing a “target number” of people that the site can contain at one time- at present based on testimony of experts, the number is 20,000.
- Monitoring the number of people present at the site at all times.
- Restricting amount of time people can stay at the site during the celebration.
- Establishing a path to go past the tomb on the men’s side in the same way as a path exists on the women’s side in order to regulate entry and exit from the site of the tomb.
- Spreading the public around the site in a way which prevents crowding in one specific area at any time
- One short lighting ceremony should take place with the Boyaner Rebbe performing the lighting
- Establishing a specific precinct for the Chalaka ceremonies
- No food should be distributed at the site, in order to prevent possible slipping and falling on garbage or other liquids
- No tents will be permitted at the site and no squatters can remain there
- No private cars will be allowed to reach the site
- The public must be informed of all the regulations