Hundreds of thousands of people converged last night on Mount Meron, near the Upper Galilee city of Safed, to celebrate the Lag Ba'omer holiday and the anniversary of the death of the second-century-B.C.E. rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Bonfires were lit at thousands of locations across the country, and more were scheduled to be lit at around midnight in a number of locations near Mount Meron.
Following tradition, members of the Boyan Hasidic dynasty were expected to light the main bonfire on Bar Yochai's grave. Because the holiday fell on Shabbat this year, observant Jews could only begin their trip to Mount Meron after sundown. That was also the reason for postponing the bonfire-lighting until midnight, in order to give people coming from farther away time to get there.
About 3,000 police officers were deployed at area parks, at the entrances to Moshav Meron and at the bonfire sites on the mountain itself. Firefighters, Magen David Adom ambulance crews and other rescue services were also there to assist. Dozens of buses were hired to shuttle celebrants from remote parking lots to the celebrations.
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