Last-minute Move of School Holiday Leaves Some Israeli Kids With Two Days Off

Lag Ba’omer and a regional festival in the north have combined to close schools on May 14 and 15

Festivities on Mount Meron
Gil Eliahu

Over 1,000 schoolchildren and kindergartners in the north will be missing school for two days next week because of Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to move the school holiday for the Lag Ba’omer festival.

Late last month, Bennett announced that the Lag Ba’omer school holiday would take place on Monday, not Sunday, based on fears that schoolchildren might breach the Sabbath gathering wood for their Lag Ba’omer bonfires, which were due to start on Saturday night. But the Merom Hagalil and Upper Galilee regions also observe the hilula festivities on the anniversary of a death of a third-century rabbi, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Yaron, a father of three from a community in the Merom Hagalil region, told Haaretz that last week he learned that his daughter’s school would be closed on Sunday as well as Monday.

“After an organized request by the parents to the regional council, they made partial arrangements for the state schools,” he said, declining to give his last name.

“They said that the council promised to coordinate in the future between the vacation days for Passover and the vacation days when they’ll decide to close the schools for Lag Ba’omer, and that will solve the problem. We hope to see the results in the future.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in the festivities Sunday, and therefore many roads in the region will be closed.

The Merom Hagalil Regional Council, in whose jurisdiction the hilula takes place, said that “in light of the Lag Ba’omer events, the Israel Police ordered the closing of traffic arteries throughout Merom Hagalil, so serious traffic problems are expected, including an inability to operate the [school] transportation system.”

A police source added: “We explained that there would be a problem due to roads that will be closed and heavy traffic. We left the decision in their hands.”