This holiday calls for fire--bonfires that is--with an epic celebration on Mt. Meron (that’s near Safed), which houses the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a kabbalist, who asked that his students rejoice on the day of his death. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Mt. Meron for an all-night party, an experience totally unique to Israel. A holy party, of course.
The origin of the bonfires isn’t totally clear, but some say bonfires are lit to remember Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, who was a spiritual light of the world. Others say it is to remember the soldiers of the Bar Kohba Revolt against the Romans. Either way, the state-wide bonfires remember historic events in Jewish history and bears religious significance for Jews. However, firefighters in Israel have their own take on this event.
Meet Sam McCartney
We have brought in Sam McCartney also-known-as, Fireman Sam, a volunteer firefighter, to teach us about what it means to be a firefighter in Israel and on Lag B’Omer.
It is a dream of many children to grow up to be a firefighter. Sam, unlike many, actually turned that dream into a reality! In 2016, Sam signed up to be a volunteer firefighter, trained with the Bnei Brak fire station, and is now a volunteer member of the station!
It takes a lot to become a firefighter in Israel. You endure long and rigorous training for months including hands-on training in a fire station before being inducted as a firefighter. For a volunteer firefighter like Sam, your job is to help professional firefighters. In order to join as a volunteer, you need to pass a theory exam in addition to being tested on the various equipment in a firetruck. Training never ceases, as each morning there is a training exercise for everyone in the fire station. We want our fighters to stay on top of their game and keep us safe!
Lag B’Omer Preparations
Israel does a great job pre-Lag B'omer, with precautionary news and social media campaigns reminding everyone to be safe, and educating on fire safety. The Israeli fire department also prepares itself for an increase in emergency calls. On the night of Lag B'omer there is an extra enlistment of firefighters in Sam’s Bnei Brak station and throughout the country; fire trucks are spread out in cities to keep an eye on the festivities!
We have some important safety tips from Fireman Sam to make this holiday not only fun but safe!
Don't make the bonfire too big and keep the fire away from people, cars, and buildings. Basically, steer clear of anything that can catch fire.
NEVER leave a fire unattended, ever. Period.
There must be adult supervision over each fire, in addition to water or sand handy if the blaze becomes unruly.
Thank you Sam for your story and advice!
Now go out and enjoy Lag B'omer safely and give a hand to Israel’s firefighters!