Lag Ba'omer Bonfires Threatened by Rain

After a drizzly Purim, Israeli children seem set for another holiday to be spoiled by bad weather. Meteorolgists predict rain for this year's Lag Ba'omer, which begins at sundown Saturday and is traditionally celebrated with bonfires.

According to the Meteotech company, cold air from the Black Sea will reach Israel on the weekend, prompting local showers throughout Saturday. There is also a chance of flash floods in the south.

The rains are expected to grow stronger on Sunday and last through the day, only weakening during the night. "It's not unusual to have rain around this time," Meteotech meteorologist Nachum Malik said. "But this time it's problematic, because it coincides with Lag Ba'omer. We're still in an unstable period, weather-wise."

Another disturbing forecast for the holiday concerns the sheer amount of pollution produced by the bonfires. The Environmental Protection Ministry issued a warning against throwing toxic materials like plastic bottles and bags into fires or feeding the flames with furniture parts that may contain wood substitutes. These may contain glue that emits poisonous particles when burned.

The ministry asks bonfire builders to avoid sitting close to the fire and being unnecessarily exposed to smoke, as studies show an increase in people going to hospitals with breathing difficulties when bonfires up the air pollution.

Meanwhile, Israel Police said its main holiday challenge is the many religious Jews who make a pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron. Some 300,000 people are expected to make the trip during the short holiday. Thousands of policeman will be securing the celebrations, and 150 paramedics will be stationed in the vicinity.