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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Babies and Blazing Bonfires - a True Israeli Holiday

Lag B'Omer: Vanity of the bonfire and of the babies who gathered round it
In Israel, between Purim (which usually occurs in late February) and Hanukah (which usually lands in mid to late December) there are more holidays than there are days in the year. That leaves just January that is guaranteed to be all gloomy and holiday-less.

Now this may seem like a slight exaggeration, but it is not if you are a working parent who attempts to go to an office to get some work done in order to earn a salary in order to pay for school, food and housing among other things.

However, if you are a child who attends some sort of daycare, preschool, nursery, kindergarten or beyond, you have a different perspective. Throughout the school year in Israel you have the equivalent of vacation days that add up to summer vacation, which means you basically have summer vacation twice in one year! That is probably why most schools charge extra for schools to host summer camp through July - so that the parents can find a way, between sick kids or their own sick days or whatever, to actually "work" through the summer. And probably to placate those parents somewhat so that they don't sue the school system.

Raia and I nudged ourselves into Lucas' school party - and we had a blast!
(Scroll down for scrumptious video coverage)

There's nothing like catering and hired entertainment for a non-holiday party
...especially when it shows off my strong suits such as music and rhythm.
But the most insulting part for parents is when days that should not be holidays become such on the calendar of the Ministry of Education. And thus, from last evening through today, we celebrated Lag B'Omer because, really, after a month off for Passover and scattered days for other religious and national holidays, who needs to go to school anyway?

Lag B'Omer is not a biblical holiday, nor is it a "national" holiday in terms of the State of Israel. It is a day that marks the death of a rabbi who is revered by followers of the kabbalah. The celebration of this day, according to Wikipedia, "has spawned several well-known customs and practices ... including the lighting of bonfires."

Yes, bonfires. Perhaps not the most highly recommended activity for a country with an arid climate.

But Israelis are looking for any excuse to throw a party.

And so, with no school the following day, the country goes ablaze. Clearly teenagers, usually unchaperoned, gather together to stoke the biggest bonfire in the universe on any random corner of an open field because that is what teenagers live for - endangerment of themselves and the general public.

And why should babies not get into the act? So as not to leave them out, parent committees of every kindergarten and daycare also organize celebrations replete with food, entertainment and FIRE.

And it takes place at a random corner of an open field before dusk while the group of teenagers hovers and waits to take your spot when we babies are whisked off to our beds.

So it was that last night, Raia and I attended Lucas' Lag B'Omer festivities with his classmates from school.

Between a blazing bonfire and a street.

The sheer lure of all this peril and hazard rendered us giddy with excitement. We didn't even want to eat. Lucas busied himself with the older siblings of his classmates who were trying to tear down the ropes marking our bonfire territory while I made several breaks for the street and Raia just ran dizzying circles around the leaping flames. At one point we all gloriously threw whatever we wanted at the flames to spur them on.

In the end, we all were peeled away well past our bed time with blackened faces, grimy hands and dusty clothing. We all smelled gloriously of smoke and were starving because we had zero time to eat with all this frivolity to be done.

And yet, miraculously, we were all in one piece with only a minor scrape among us to show for it. Under the soot, we were still alive and eventually clean.

I made friends with the 12 year olds waiting to swarm our space
for their own mega-fire after we went home

Actually, these guys became my biggest fans and helped
me scale their future kindling
In the north yesterday "paramedics provided treatment to 92 people who suffered minor injuries over the course of the all-night celebration." But we - a group of about two dozen babies - were all okay. And THAT is cause for celebration!

That and being off from school today.

I'm confident that pretty soon the Ministry of Education will find a way to add Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year of the Tree, to its holiday roster. And then we will have a holiday nicely nestled in January as well.

So accordingly, as we say, "Shana haba b'Yeushalayim!" Next year in Jerusalem!