Government ministries urge smaller, alternative Lag Ba’omer celebrations

Written by on April 24, 2021

The annual tradition of lighting massive bonfires on the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’omer has come under scrutiny from environmental and medical professionals in recent years, leading Israel’s Environmental Protection and Health Ministries to release a joint statement earlier this week, urging Jews to find alternative ways of celebrating the upcoming holiday to minimize its medical and environmental impact.

The statement said that the many creative ways which Israelis found to celebrate the holiday without bonfires during last year’s coronavirus lockdowns led to a dramatic and measurable drop in pollution and smog nationwide when compared to previous years. 

The ministries said they were aware of the sentimental value of the holiday and gave Israelis who still wish to erect bonfires several tips on ways of reducing the amount of pollution they create while celebrating the holiday.

The EPM suggested unifying bonfires with other social groups – without making the actual bonfire larger – as one way to drastically cut pollution. 

The ministry also detailed a list of common materials that can be hazardous when burned, such as different types of plastic, styrofoam, glass, rocks, glue and fake or painted pieces of wood.

The statement also featured a reminder for Israelis to bring recyclable trash bags with them and leave their surroundings clean once their night is done.

As for safety tips, the Health Ministry recommended appointing a designated chaperone to oversee the erection of the bonfire and safe operation throughout the night.

It is vital to look for a safe location for you bonfire, somewhere far away from other bonfires, buildings, power and phone lines, trees and shrubs and gasoline powered machinery.

The statement recommends bringing a fully charged phone, two full buckets of water and a first aid kit for emergencies and suggested people wear long pants, long sleeves and close-toed shoes to protect from sparks and local wildlife.

At the end of the night, each group must make sure their bonfire has been fully extinguished by pouring water or sand on it.

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