More than 200,000 people arrived at Mount Meron in northern Israel Thursday night to take part in the annual Lag B'Omer celebration at the grave of second-century Torah sage Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai.
Lag B'omer is traditionally regarded as the anniversary of the rabbi's death.
Mount Meron festivities (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
The festivities, which include singing and ecstatic dancing, are expected to last 24 hours. The celebration kicked off at noon Thursday with the traditional procession during which an ancient Torah scroll was transferred from the Abu family home in Safed to Bar-Yohai's tomb. The first bonfire was lit at around 8:45 pm.
Some 4,300 police officers and volunteers are maintaining order at the event. According to police officials, an additional 200,000 people are expected to arrive at the site by noon Friday.
A 38-year-old haredi man collapsed and died of apparent heart failure at a parking lot in Ein Zeytim after visiting Mount Meron. Paramedics dispatched to the scene failed in their attempt to resuscitate him.
The man's family members said he felt chest pains during the festivities.
By 9:30 pm firefighters had already extinguished 11 bonfires in the Upper Galilee region, mainly in Safed and Hatzor Haglilit.
Some of those participating in the festivities at Mount Meron pitched tents or rented out guesthouses in nearby communities.