Meron and tomb of Shimon BarYochai circa 1930
Wednesday evening Jews around the world will celebrate Lag B’Omer, the end of a month-long mourning period when traditional Jews refrain from weddings or joyous gatherings. The mourning remembers the thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva, a reknowned spiritual leader at the time of the Talmud. They died in a great plague that ended on Lag B’Omer.
The tomb on the hill (enlarged)
In Israel, Lag B’Omer is celebrated with bonfires, hikes along nature trails, and gatherings at the tombs of of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the Galilee town of Meron and of Shimon the Just (Hatzaddik) in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Dancing at the Meron tomb (Central Zionist Archives,
Harvard Library, 1925)
Bar Yochai, a student of Rabbi Akiva’s, was known for his opposition to the Roman rule in the Land of Israel. He and his son were forced to flee to the Galilee where they hid in a cave for 12 years. Lag B’Omer is the day of his death, but it is actually celebrated in recognition of the Torah teachings he gave over to his students.
Jewish women praying at the Shimon Hatzaddik tomb (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard Library, c. 1930)
Hundreds of thousands of celebrants are expected to visit Shimon Bar Yochai’s tomb in Meron by Wednesday night.
Shimon Hatzaddik was a High Priest of the second Temple in Jerusalem for 40 years.
Jews gathered at Shimon Hatzaddik’s tomb in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard Library, c. 1930)
According to Jewish tradition, Shimon clothed himself in his High Priest’s vestments to receive Alexander the Great as he marched toward Jerusalem. Alexander stepped from his chariot and bowed to Shimon, who, he said, had appeared to him in a dream predicting his victories.
Children’s Lag B’Omer procession near Shimon Hatzaddik’s tomb (1918)
Many traditional Jews who cannot travel to Meron in the Galilee celebrate Lag B’Omer at Shimon Hatzaddik’s tomb located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.
Shimon Hatzaddik’s tomb today
Jewish homes around the tomb had to be evacuated in the 1948 fighting. In recent years Jewish families have returned to the neighborhood.