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Jewish worshippers celebrate Lag B’Omer in Jerusalem after being barred from Mount Meron due to Hezbollah threat

Ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrate Lag B'Omer in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, May 25, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Thousands of Orthodox Jewish worshippers typically celebrate the annual Lag B’Omer festival on Mount Meron in northern Israel to honor the teachings of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who is buried at the site.

However, due to the ongoing rocket and missile threat from the Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon, Israeli authorities canceled this year’s festivities on Mount Meron.

Instead, thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered in various locations in Jerusalem, including the Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Just) neighborhood, named after the second-century High Priest whose tomb is located in the area. However, the neighborhood is located next to mostly Arab-populated Sheikh Jarrah, which has become a political flashpoint in recent years.

Israel Defense Forces maintains a strategic aerial control base on Mount Meron that offers a commanding view over Hezbollah’s forces in Lebanon. In late March, the Iranian-backed terrorist militia group targeted the base with a rocket barrage in an attempt to undermine Israel’s intelligence-gathering capabilities. The Israeli army confirmed that the base had been hit but announced that “there were no casualties and there was no damage to the unit’s function.”

The Hezbollah attack failed to cause any extensive damage to the IDF's Meron base, however, two Hezbollah missiles inflicted considerable damage to the Israeli Avivim Winery in northern Israel.

Hezbollah claimed they had used “guided missiles” from their vast arsenal of at least 100,000 rockets and missiles. However, the majority of these are not believed to be guided, which means that Hezbollah’s barrages pose a significant threat to Israel's northern communities.

Last week, the Israeli military inaugurated a new Iron Dome missile defense battalion to strengthen its aerial defenses against the Hezbollah threat on Israel’s northern border.

Israel Air Force (IAF) commander, Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar said Israel has been facing unprecedented threats since the Hamas-initiated war began on Oct. 7.

“For more than seven months, the fighters of the air defense command have been engaged in a challenging multi-front battle that is unprecedented in its scope,” Bar stated during the ceremony.

“Together, we will also know how to expand and intensify the attack if needed. This will be an attack with a tremendous range of fire, which will remove threats,” the IAF commander added.

Mount Meron is also the site of one of Israel’s worst peacetime disasters. In April 2021, 45 worshippers were crushed to death and hundreds were injured due to overcrowding when approximately 100,000 Orthodox Jews gathered on the mountain to celebrate Lag B'Omer. Since this tragedy, the annual holiday has been more low-key and with far fewer participants.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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