Today, the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, marks the Jewish holiday and celebration of Lag B'Omer. Between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, we count these 50 days in a tradition known as Counting the Omer. Lag B'Omer falls on the 33rd of these days. Truthfully, this was one of those holidays that I really never experienced while growing up in the United States. However, it is certainly celebrated all over Israel. At nightfall, as the Hebrew days begins at sundown, you can smell burning bonfires in the air and likely see several of them throughout your neighborhood. This fire, the national symbol of the holiday, is meant to honor the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who was one of Rabbi Akiva's greatest disciples.
From my little corner of Jerusalem I could certainly smell the distinct hint of burning bonfires coming from various directions. Although the holiday is celebrated all over Israel, the truly religious head up north to the city of Meron, Israel where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was laid to rest. Here is an image of Mt. Meron in northern Israel:
In Meron, you would see thousands of religious Jews gathering for the festive celebration of Lag B'Omer including song and dance, the lighting of bonfires and other forms of feasting and celebration.
Also traditional on this holiday is for little boys to have their first haircut. Upon reaching the age of three, religious young boys will have their fathers cut their hair for the first time. The hair will then be thrown into the traditional bonfires. At the same time, wine and treats will be enjoyed.
Just another two weeks or so (16 more days of counting the Omer) until we reach Shavuot, at which time summer will officially begin here in Israel!