BE’ER SHEVA—Lag BaOmer is nearing, and like every year, children and adults in Israel are bustling about, gathering scrap wood for the biggest and best bonfires, preparing for parades, and buying charcoal and meats for barbecues in parks and fields around the country. But this year, there’s a special feeling in the air.

Amid the backdrop of political protests and terror attacks, there are calls for unprecedented demonstrations on Lag BaOmer—not of political differences, but of Ahavat Yisrael—the unconditional love for one’s fellow. People of every background and political persuasion will join together Monday night, May 8, and Tuesday, May 9, at Lag BaOmer bonfires, barbecues and parades hosted by hundreds of Chabad-Lubavitch centers across the country.

Eliran Meimis, a systems analyst and martial-arts teacher from Ramat Gan, fondly recalls the bonfires of his childhood in Holon. While he hasn’t observed Lag BaOmer in many years, he says he will this year.

“Lag BaOmer is the perfect opportunity for am Yisrael, the Jewish people, to set aside their differences and celebrate together as am echad, one people,” Meimis tells

Lag BaOmer marks the 33rd day of the Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer, the 49 days between the Jewish people’s departure from Egypt on Passover and their receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuot. In the first century, after the destruction of the Holy Temple, 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva were killed in a plague during this period. On the 33rd day of the Omer, the plague ceased. Years later, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the seminal work of Jewish mysticism, passed away on this same day. Before his passing, Rabbi Shimon requested that the day be marked with joy.

First, a Lag BaOmer parade, and then festivities for the entire family in Be’er Sheva. - File Photo: Yisrael Blesovsky
First, a Lag BaOmer parade, and then festivities for the entire family in Be’er Sheva.
File Photo: Yisrael Blesovsky

A Celebration of Light and Fiery Love

“Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was about light, and had a fiery love for his fellow Jews,” says Sara Naiditch, co-director of Chabad of the Coast. “In Tel Aviv, which is a metropolis of all types of people, Lag BaOmer brings everyone together. Regardless of political or religious affiliation, people can feel the light. You see it in the bonfire and music, and feel it in the crowd.”

Together with her husband and co-director, Rabbi Eli Naiditch, she will be hosting two events. The first one will attract young families who send their children to Chabad of the Coast’s preschool and their friends. This event will be family-oriented and feature a barbecue in the park. The second event, with a large bonfire, will serve the Young Jewish Professionals crowd.

Bonfires, a favorite Lag BaOmer tradition, symbolize Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s fire and light. Sara Naiditch points out that Lag BaOmer is an easy holiday for people who are synagogue-shy to attend.

“It’s in a park, there’s a bonfire and barbecue. There’s no intimidating building to step into. It brings Jews of all backgrounds together in a way that’s warm, welcoming and authentic.”

In Be’er Sheva's Old Tet neighborhood, Rabbi Chaim and Racheli Heber expect another big turnout among the area’s many Moroccan Jews who turn out every year for the Lag BaOmer day parade and festivities that combine an inclusive mix of Eastern European and North African customs and traditions.

Days before the holiday, children gathered around in the Chabad kids clubhouse and began decorating signs and drums for the big parade, with local mom and artist, Hila Dahan.

“I love that my kids are seeing their mom volunteering for others, and for the community,” Dahan told “They get to see an example of giving. Every year I encourage my neighbors and all the locals to join the parade, and when I see them all come together it fills my heart with joy.”

In Savyon, a large family-oriented event will bring together residents of the small, affluent town in central Israel.
In Savyon, a large family-oriented event will bring together residents of the small, affluent town in central Israel.

Parades Initiated by the Rebbe in 1953

In 1953, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, initiated a Lag BaOmer parade, in order to instill a sense of Jewish pride and unity in every Jewish child. In years to come, whenever the day fell on Sunday, the Rebbe would personally attend the large parade in Brooklyn, N.Y., and would address the children from an outdoor podium in front of 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters.

Around the world, Chabad emissaries organize parades filled with flotillas and signs encouraging mitzvot, Jewish pride and unity. In Israel, where school is out for the day, hundreds of such parades take place, and an estimated 500,000 children attend parades across the country from Metula to Eilat.

One such parade will be taking place in the city of Efrat, where locals are still grappling with the recent terror attack that took the lives of Lucy Dee and her daughters Maia and Rina. The parade will bring together families from all seven neighborhoods of Efrat, and the various schools and youth clubs all plan on participating in the march.

“The most important thing we can do in the face of tragedy is to join together as one,” says Kiki Newman, who co-directs the Chabad of Efrat’s English division with her husband, Rabbi Shlomie Newman. “Because we are all truly one; the pain is all of ours, and the joy is all of ours. We are brothers and sisters, and at the end of the day we have each other. Without each other, we aren’t complete.”

Newman adds that the community of Efrat is exemplary at coming together in support, and the Lag BaOmer parade will only highlight their powerful ability to rally around the common Jewish flame.

Children across Israel will take part in Lag BaOmer events like this one in Tel Aviv. - Photo: Chabad of the Coast
Children across Israel will take part in Lag BaOmer events like this one in Tel Aviv.
Photo: Chabad of the Coast

In Sederot, on the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza—where residents have about 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter or protected area when the sirens sound—residents often avoid outdoor gatherings, but not on Lag BaOmer. Most of the city’s residents immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union, including recent refugees from Ukraine, joining native Israelis and immigrants other nations. On Lag BaOmer, families of all backgrounds sit together for communal meals sponsored by Chabad of Sderot, attend barbecues, enjoy musical performances, plays, and, of course, the parade the children participate in. In past years 700 to 800 people would turn out for Chabad events, and in this Hakhel year even more are expected.

And in Savyon—one of Israel’s most affluent communities comprising native Israeli executives and professionals as well as many residents whose families were originally from South Africa—a large family-oriented event will bring together residents of the small town in central Israel.

Rabbi Shmuel Bistritzky, who directs Chabad of Savyon with his wife, Rivka, is looking forward to inspiring everyone with the positive message of love.

“Unity really starts with the children,” he says. “When the children come together and talk about connection and unity, it inspires everyone around them and unites the whole community.”