Lag B’Omer Tragedy
A major catastrophe occurred Thursday evening into Friday morning as a mass gathering of an estimated 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish people went up to Mount Meron in northern Israel to celebrate Lag B’Omer. Hundreds of people were jammed together on a narrow exit corridor when a human avalanche occurred. Forty-five people were killed, and more than 150 people were injured in what is being called the worst peacetime disaster in the nation’s history. Although there is much finger-pointing, the ultimate cause of the horror was too many people in a small space. The religious community applied a great deal of political pressure to be able to celebrate en masse for the first time in a year at an antiquated place. The sheer numbers involved meant the police were unable to maintain safe crowd control measures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday a national day of mourning as the last of the dead are buried and people pray for those grieving and injured. Citizens from all sectors came together from Thursday night until now to help; thousands lined up to donate blood while others offered food and housing for those stranded before the Sabbath. Many who were involved in the stampede were from Jerusalem, so people brought their families food for the Sabbath, and Druze villages in the north opened their homes for people to come and stay. An eyeglass shop offered free glasses for those who lost theirs and is urging other shops to do the same. The four Israeli health funds are also offering free psychological care.
Please pray that the Lord would comfort those who are mourning, those who are injured, and those who experienced this horrific disaster.
What is Lag B’Omer?
Primarily ultra-Orthodox Jewish people celebrate Lag B’Omer on the thirty-third day following Passover. “Lag” is an abbreviation for the Hebrew number thirty-three. In rabbinic tradition, Lag B’Omer concludes a solemn time during which no weddings or haircuts take place. It is a pilgrimage holiday to Israel’s second highest mountain, Mount Meron, where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a sage from the second century, is buried. Lag B’Omer is a day to celebrate this famous rabbi and to pay homage to the rabbi’s teacher (Rabbi Akiva, another acclaimed sage) and 24,000 of his students who were said to have died in a plague between Passover and Lag B’Omer. Thus, it is a celebration of life, Torah, and rejuvenation. Therefore, every year, thousands and thousands of ultra-Orthodox flock to Mount Meron to pay their respects and rejoice. Partying and dancing can often go on all night with music blasting from old Jewish songs, modern dance music, and Ashkenazi (European) and Sephardic (Middle Eastern) tunes.
Israel Helps India
Israel will be reaching out to India with help during India’s devastating COVID-19 wave. Israel plans to send syringes and oxygen machines as well as provide online advice and support to the health care professionals. Yotam Polizer, IsraAID’s chief executive officer, called the situation in India “overwhelming,” and helping to stop the spread should be everyone’s concern. “With life in Israel returning to a pre-pandemic ‘normal,’ it is crucial to remember our shared responsibility to partner with communities facing the worst of it,” he said. “The pandemic will not be over for anybody until it is over for everybody.” As of this week, less than ten percent of India’s population have received the vaccine. At the start of last week, there were more than 300,000 new cases in a twenty-four-hour period for six consecutive days. To date, they have experienced almost 200,000 deaths from the virus.
Please pray that the devastating wave of illness in India subsides quickly and for Indian doctors and nurses who are treating so many suffering with COVID-19.
Quarantine from Seven Global Hotspots
Even though Israel’s coronavirus numbers are very, very low and restrictions are easing, Israel is watching COVID-19 hotspots around the world with concern. Those travelers coming from Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Turkey, and Mexico will need to enter into quarantine upon their return to Israel, even if they have been vaccinated. The quarantine will be held in a state-run hotel for two weeks or ten days with two negative tests. Israel is treating this very seriously, as the country does not want to let in mutations that may be highly contagious.
Please pray for wisdom for Israeli leadership as they deal with the ups and downs of the pandemic and post-pandemic environment.
New Season of In-Person Ministry!
Our ministry in Israel is flexible and moving as the Lord moves! It is encouraging to see new opportunities opening. We had a women’s Bible study meet in Hebrew and in English over Zoom this past year, and the ladies are finally having their first in-person brunch outside together. It will be a great reunion for them after almost a year of not seeing one another. Other nationwide in-person events are also taking place. It is an exciting new season of ministry!
Please pray for the Bible study, fellowship, and prayer, as well as all the in-person ministry events that are resuming.