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May 15, 1992 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-05-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

WIN

HOLIDAYS

V • A FULL-LENGTH MINK
• A FABULOUS CRUISE
• • A LAS VEGAS ADVENTURE

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Lag B'Omer Observed
At Mount Meron

SIMON GRIVER

ARTHUR S. BRICKER

JOHN G. TUNIS

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SINCE 1916

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T

origins of Lag
B'Omer, the 33rd day
of the Omer (May 21
this year), have been lost in
the mist of history, but the
festival has long been
associated with the end of the
plague which killed many of
Rabbi Akiva's students in the
1st century CE, and the Jews'
brief triumph over the
Romans in the Bar Kochba
revolt. Talmudic sages have
also suggested that it was on
Lag B'Omer that manna first
fell from heaven to feed the
Jews wandering in the wild-
erness after the exodus from
Egypt. But in modern Israel,
the central event has unques-
tionably become the pilgri-
mage to the grave of the
reputed Kabbalist Shimon
Bar Yochai, who authored the
Zohar and is said to have died
on Lag B'Omer.
Many of those who visit the
Upper Galilee town of Meron
on Lag B'Omer come for the
fun and falafel stalls. Others
come for the splendid view of
the Hula Valley, Lake Kin-
neret and snow capped Mount
Hermon. But the traditional
Mount Meron celebrations
are what really draw the
crowds.
For the past 160 years, a
procession headed by a sage
carrying a Torah scroll has
left the home of the promi-
nent Sephardi Abu family in
Safed and wound its way up
to the tomb of Shimon Bar
Yochai. Politicians, leading
government ministers,
members of minority com-
munities — Moslems, Chris-
tian Arabs, Druse, Circas-
sians . — and, occasionally,
even foreign ambassadors,
join the crowd.
Although the participation
of non-Jews was vigorously
condemned several years ago
by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi
of Safed, the Abu family
strongly protested, insisting
that local non-Jewish
villagers have always
celebrated alongside their
Jewish neighbors.
En route to the grave site,
and especially near the grave
itself, many three-year-old
Chasidic youngsters can be
seen having their traditional
first haircut. The locks are
then thrown onto a bonfire, a
custom undoubtedly origin-
ating from a magical pagan
rite. Though not exclusive to
Mount Meron (the ceremony

he

MIR

takes place throughout Israel,

especially in the Orthodox
neighborhoods of Jerusalem
and Bnei Brak), this 16th cen-
tury custom has come to be
associated with Lag B'Omer
in Meron. On this day the
great Kabbalist Isaac Luria
brought his small son to
Mount Meron, cut his hair,
then spent the day feasting
and celebrating with his
family.
But the bonfire is the main
symbol of Lab B'Omer. The
Jewish tradition of lighting
fires to signal the beginning
of a new month was forbidden
by the Romans in order to
discourage them from obser-
ving their religious laws and
becoming unified as a nation.
But following the Bar Kochba
revolt, the fire lighting was
renewed.
Many modern-day pilgrims
camp overnight on Mount
Meron — and elsewhere —
lighting bonfires, dancing,
singing, eating and reflecting
on the day's festivities. El

WZPS

NEWS Imm"..."

Amnesty Group
Charges Abuse

New York (JTA) —
Amnesty International has
charged that human rights
violations have occurred
regularly in the South Leb-
anon Army's Khiam prison
camp.

In a 53-page report,

Amnesty recounted detailed
claims of torture made by
former prisoners at the
camp, which was set up in
early 1985 by the SLA with
Israel's assistance.
Amnesty also condemned
the camp for failing to allow
inmates, who are generally
held without charge or trial,
to communicate with
relatives or humanitarian
agencies.

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