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Mount Meron closed for Lag B'Omer this weekend amid Hezbollah threats on Israel's northern border

View of the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron, northern Israel, May 1, 2024. (Photo: Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Israel's Lag B'Omer celebrations scheduled for this weekend at Mount Meron have been canceled, and the site will remain closed for the duration of the holiday, due to security concerns arising from attacks by the Hezbollah terrorist organization targeting Israel's northern border.

The chief of the IDF Home Front Command announced that the Mount Meron area would be a closed military zone beginning Wednesday night until noon the following Monday, May 27. The Home Front Command emphasized that "entering the Meron area is strictly prohibited” during this period and that police would enforce the closure.

Mount Meron, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the border with Lebanon, is home to the Mount Meron Air Base, also known as the “Eyes of the State.” The base has been targeted by Hezbollah in Lebanon several times in recent months.

In January, the Israeli military admitted that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) base had suffered some damage to the northern air control unit from a Hezbollah rocket barrage. Hezbollah's attack was reportedly in response to the assassination of Hamas Deputy Leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut.

The air base was targeted repeatedly in March and April. In early May, Hezbollah fired around 60 rockets at the Meron air base.

“Hezbollah’s rocket barrage targeting northern Israel on May 15 illustrates the continued threat that the Iranian-backed terrorist group poses to Israel. Hezbollah has carried out thousands of attacks on Israel since October 2023, when it chose to support the Hamas attack on Israel,” said Seth Frantzman, Adjunct Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

The Mount Meron closure is being enforced specifically because of the annual Lag B'Omer pilgrimage, during which tens of thousands of religious Orthodox Jews visit the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the mountain.

Based on their assessment of potential security risks., the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has canceled all Lag B'Omer events at the site this year.

In 2021, 45 people, including children, were crushed to death and hundreds were wounded at the Mount Meron site when an estimated 100,000 religious Jews celebrated the Lag B'Omer. The tragedy struck after panic broke out when a mass of people fell while descending a set of narrow and steep metal stairs. Other attendees behind them were unaware of the danger and continued pushing, ultimately leading to what became of one Israel’s worst peacetime disasters.

In March, the state commission responsible for investigating the failures that led to the Mount Meron disaster concluded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was partially to blame.

The commission determined that “there is a reasonable basis for stating that Netanyahu knew that the site of the Rashbi’s tomb for years had been poorly cared for and that this could create a risk for the multitudes of visitors to the place, especially in Lag B’Omer.”

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

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