Lag B’Omer. I’m leveling with you: as an adult olah, I will probably never ever understand fully the appeal and utter dismissal for environmental health and safety that is this 33rd day of the counting of the Omer… in Israel.
Until this morning I couldn’t for the life of me remember what we Americanos did as kids in school on Lag Ba’Omer. It’s like the memories just weren’t important enough to hold on to. Maybe that’s sad in itself. But after being reminded, it flooded back: the whole school going to a big nature reserve nearby, to sprawl out with packed lunches, frisbees, kickballs, hula hoops, general running around and being kids enjoying the grass, trees, blue skies… Turning it into some kind of Jewishly-oriented environmental appreciation day.
FYI, I have some fond memories and a healthy dose of reality in remembering my rabbis and Lakewood-y teachers getting down with nature.
Here, perhaps it’s more memorable – as the kids seem to have a blast – but at what cost? Why does everyone need to make their own bonfires? Couldn’t it be communal? Why must we do it at all? Why isn’t better fire safety taught? Where’s the environmental appreciation in burning anything you can find and watching your yishuv from under a smoky haze?
Why is it a day off from school instead of a learning opportunity? Couldn’t our kids be brought to local nature reserves? Gather inside a cave, simulate the religious-historical experience? Hell, learn about cave survival?
Point is, the odd/mystical/violent/depressing background to the holiday may be a lot for kids. Then let’s reframe it. Make it educational… and fun. Not destructive.
Because I gotta say, whatever the religious significance of Lag B’Omer – and it’s been totally lost on me from under this insulting black cloud – it can’t possibly be to disregard our beloved surroundings, the land we’ve yearned for, for so long.
That said… Sigh. Here’s my own little Israeli child enjoying his gan’s celebration the day before.
Another one bites the smoke.