Ultra-Orthodox defy Israeli coronavirus restrictions with holiday bonfires

Ultra-Orthodox defy Israeli coronavirus restrictions with holiday bonfires
Israeli authorities had banned traditional bonfire celebrations for the Lag B'Omer holiday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
1 min read
12 May, 2020
Israeli authorities had banned Lag B'Omer celebrations [AFP]
Hundreds of people defied coronavirus restrictions in Israel on Monday night to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer in ultra-Orthodox communities, local media reported.

The largest gathering took place in Mea Sharim, an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem, where as many as a thousand people defied a ban on Lag B'Omer celebrations. The gathering was later dispersed by the police.

Lag B'Omer is a holiday marking the death of second century Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who is said to have written the foundational work of the Jewish mystical tradition, Kabbalah. During the celebration, people conduct weddings, hold parades, and light bonfires. 

Celebrations also took place in Jerusalem's Zichron Moshe neighbourhood, Beit Shemesh, and the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned those who celebrated amid restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ultra-Orthodox community has been hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, with Bnei Brak, and Mea Shearim and other ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods facing selective lockdowns due to residents' flouting social distancing regulations.

Israel has reported 16,526 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 258 fatalities.

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