(May 12, 2020 / JNS) Hundreds of people gathered around Lag B’Omer bonfires in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim and other haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhoods in the country on Monday night, in violation of the Israeli government’s emergency restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Fires were also lit in certain areas of Bnei Brak.
Members of the Israel Police Special Patrol Unit (Yasam) dispersed crowds in some of the locations with the use of water jets, according to Channel 12 News.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “vehemently condemned the violation of the rules” of social distancing in general and those put in place specifically ahead of the holiday.
In an urgent call with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen and National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Netanyahu stressed the need to “increase enforcement” of emergency coronavirus regulations. Ben-Shabbat warned that violations such as those exhibited on Lag B’Omer are liable to bring about a fresh spike in infection.
According to Channel 12, many residents of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods adhered to the regulations, opting for an alternative type of celebration. In Bnei Brak, for instance, a car lit up with a virtual bonfire cruised through the streets to provide holiday cheer to to people viewing from the balconies of their apartments.
Despite the gradual reopening of the economy as a result of a declining coronavirus death and infection rate, the Israeli cabinet decided last week to prohibit the traditional mass celebrations on Lag B’Omer—the Jewish holiday marking the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, which involves lighting and dancing around bonfires.
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