Mass Arrests at Lag Ba'omer Celebration Violating Coronavirus Regulations

Clashes erupted between Israeli police and people celebrating at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron

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Lag Ba'omer celebrations at Mount Meron, May 11, 2020.
Lag Ba'omer celebrations at Mount Meron, May 11, 2020. Credit: rami shllush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Israeli police arrested over 300 people in Mount Meron on Tuesday for violating the coronavirus emergency regulations banning Lag Ba'omer celebrations at the site.

"Hundreds of people, including women and children, arrived at the area of Mount Meron. They unfortunately chose to intentionally violate the emergency regulations," said the police in a statement.

The arrests were accompanied by clashes and people hurled rocks and objects at police. Additional forces were called for backup and assistance in making arrests, said the police.

The tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron, May 12, 2020. Credit: Israeli Police Spokesperson

Those arrested were "rioters who tried to enter the tomb complex at all costs while breaking and damaging the settlement's fences," said the police statement.

The police statement reiterated the restrictions on the area and urged citizens to abide by the regulations, threatening that they will "act resolutely against any assault or violence of any kind directed at the police."

Earlier, the Health Ministry said it fears a second outbreak as a result of Lag Ba'omer celebrations, and that it may be forced to reimpose stringent restrictions on certain ultra-Orthodox areas.

Lag Ba'omer celebrations at Mount Meron, May 11, 2020. Credit: rami shllush

Interior Minister Arye Dery, who also leads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, supported the police investigation into how a number of people were present at the Mount Meron celebration on Monday despite a government ban.

The Israeli government approved more stringent coronavirus restrictions for Lag Ba'omer celebrations last week, including an absolute ban on lighting bonfires, which is traditional for the holiday, and limited admittance to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron. 

Despite restrictions, hundreds of people congregated in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim on Monday night. The police said it was unaware of the planned celebration, and that the crowd dispersed as soon as the police arrived at the scene.

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