What a wonderful Lag B’omer we’ve had this year!
I started my preparations for the night by having all the kids take naps. Then late in the afternoon, I took in my laundry and closed all the windows to our home since I was warned that one of the few places where people can get permits to make bonfires is in my neighborhood, just a five minute walk from our home, so the smell of smoke will be heavy.
We started off by attending a bonfire at the hesder yeshiva close by. My husband often davens (prays) there and knows a number of the men but I hadn’t had a chance to meet hardly any of the women yet, so this was a great opportunity. I was told they would have activities for children and thought it would be nice for our younger kids to have something geared toward them rather than just standing around and watching, so we set off with the six kids ages 13 and down.
Bonfire – I’m guessing it was over 20 feet high (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)
Meanwhile, the older two girls went directly from school to a friend in Tzfat and spent the day there. At about midnight, they took a bus from Tzfat to Meron, which is the hottest spot to be in the entire country on Lag B’omer, since it’s where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was buried. (Parenthetically, I had originally seriously considered having ds2’s haircut there today, since his birthday is in just a week and a half, but decided against it mostly because of the massive crowds that I felt would be dangerous for young children. ) I was really glad the girls could go because it’s a Meron on Lag B’omer is a very memorable experience, and they’re old enough for it to be positive for them. They left Meron at about 4:30 am, spent the day in Tzfat, and came home about 3 pm – and promptly fell asleep.
Back to us and the bonfire. As we walked to the yeshiva, we saw several other bonfires and it really right away got us into the Lag B’omer mood! While we were walking, a couple of the kids were saying they wished we could do our own fire and didn’t seem too excited about watching someone else’s. But when we got there, the bonfire at the yeshiva was particularly huge and extremely hot, and some middle school aged kids who were there started two or three of their own bonfires under the supervision of their parents, smaller but still fun for our kids to watch.
Dd11 at bonfire (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)
Pitas with hotdogs and drinks were served, dd13 bought marshmallows to roast right before we left home, and the kids all had a nice time. Throughout the evening, I met several of the other women, including a couple mothers whose feedback about specific schools that I wanted to gather information about was very helpful.
Roasting marshmallows (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)
We had intended to go from there to the bonfire at ds13’s school and arrive , but I was too busy chatting to leave when we had originally said we would. So by time we got to the second bonfire, we were just in time to see everyone leaving. Dd11 and ds13 left a bit before dh and I, so they were in time to see the end of a performance there. We got back home at about midnight, seeing lots of smaller fires along the way, which was something the little kids particularly enjoyed – actually, I think we all did, because there was a feeling of everyone celebrating the holiday at the same time, of being in a Jewish country that I haven’t as strongly felt for other holidays.
The next morning, at 9:45 am Lag B’omer themed music began booming throughout loudspeakers close by. This was the introductory part of a parade organized by Chabad that we were planning to attend at 10:30 am, but the music got things started sooner. By the time we got there, the plaza area where people were gathering was filled with people, and we were directed to the area where our children were given balloons and hats to wear. In the meantime, the music was playing, a sefer Torah and tzedaka box were dancing, and the atmosphere was very festive.
Soon afterward, the parade began, led by a truck playing music, with all the children and their parents following through the streets after it. The streets had been closed for the parade, with police guarding all the possible entry and exit points, and this was the first time the littles experienced being able to walk in the middle of a street! After walking about fifteen minutes (during which point ds9 and ds6 were separated from us, but they were assigned to each other as ‘buddies’ by me in advance so it was okay), we arrived at Park HaGalil, where everyone was given a bagged drink (it would be called a popsicle if we had taken it home and frozen it) and found a seat under the huge tent that was set up over the stone ampitheatre.
There was music, followed by a performance of two characters who it seems are very popular, Shlomi and Stam. Their performance was about an hour and was well done, fun and engaging for the kids. It was really nice to see the wide mix of people in attendance – charedi, hesder, chabad, secular – Chabad does outreach well and it was nice to be part of it.
We left before the raffle at the end, and when we got home made some popcorn (there had been some for sale at the event but I hadn’t taken any money – and honestly probably wouldn’t have bought any even if I had!). Then we had rest time, because I wanted the kids to be able to enjoy our activities later in the day.
At about 5 pm, we went to a local park to meet six other English speaking families. Ds13 took his sport equipment, and it was really nice when they had enough people to get together a game of baseball, the first one since we moved – ds13 is a talented baseball player and this is something I think he’s missed since coming here. Following that they played Ultimate (frisbee) while the little kids played on the playground or with the balls they brought.
Ds13 pitching to dh (picture credit: Shmuel Furman)
All the families brought their own food, but one couple thought to bring ice cream and cones for everyone, which was a really nice treat towards the end of the time we were there. (They live close by and kept it in their freezer until it was time to serve it.) The men and older boys sang and then danced together, which was really nice, while we ladies spent the entire time chatting. It was really very, very nice – we all enjoyed it a lot. I had planned to stay home when everyone else went so I’d have time to prepare for my class on Shabbos afternoon, but was really glad that I didn’t do that. (Not sure when I’m going to prepare, but I’ll hopefully get started with that after I finish posting!)
We got home when it was almost 10 pm, and all agreed we’d had a very full and enjoyable Lag B’omer!