Israel's National Fire and Rescue Authority chief on Thursday warned the public ahead of the Lag BaOmer holiday not to get carried away with the traditional bonfires, saying it's possible to celebrate "without burning down half the country".
Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Dedi Simchi told Ynet the tough restrictions around Lag BaOmer bonfires are justified and are there for the safety of the people and the environment.
Last week, Fire and Rescue Services announced that Lag BaOmer bonfires will be allowed only in specific areas that are accustomed to lighting bonfires, due to the extremely hot and dry weather and the consequent risk of wildfires.
"I don’t think we exaggerated. I think it is possible to celebrate Lag BaOmer according to Israeli tradition without burning half the country,” said Simchi, who added the Fire and Rescue Services are ready to enforce the restrictions all over the country.
Simchi added that each year, there are over 500 cases of Lag BaOmer bonfires getting out of control and scorching everything around them.
“Many dozens of children end the evening with burn injuries.” Simchi said. “We did not completely ban bonfires, we just limited them. There are areas in which it’s ok to light fires. I think we should act to protect Israel’s beautiful and amazing vegetation.”
Simchi also explained how to report bonfires being lit in unsanctioned areas.
“You need to call the municipal hotline, they know how to contact us. I do believe however that if you turn to those who lit the fire and tell them it's not okay then they will extinguish it on their own.”
Rabbi Yossi Gamliel on his part said he intends to light the traditional Lag BaOmer bonfire, but only in accordance with the restrictions.
I do not disagree with Simchi, but of course we have to light bonfires, this is our right on Lag BaOmer… However, we certainly do need to be careful,” said Gamliel.
“Let's be realistic, this is one decree the public can abide by. [Do not light bonfires] in the forest and not anywhere near bushes. That is what they said and that is what we will do,” Gamliel added.
“[Fire and Rescue Services] acted wisely here… I believe that, despite the restrictions, there are still dangers, but these restrictions both keep us safer and allow us to enjoy the holiday,” added the rabbi.