Israeli towns large and small hosted Lag B’Omer celebrations, drawing on their local populations of children to illustrate the unifying power of Jewish pride.

In the Upper Galilee region, hundreds of children gathered at locations throughout the hill-top city of Safed to then march in small parades with their local Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries. In the days leading up the holiday, posters invited young and old to the celebrations, which converged at a soccer field between the city’s two mountain peaks.

Greeting them all was Mayor Ilan Shohat, who helped lead the children in the recitation of 12 Torah passages. In a short speech, the mayor recalled that as a child, he never missed a Lag B’Omer rally, and that in honor of this year’s event, he had arranged for six winners of a children’s raffle to take a brief helicopter ride.

“You know, when I was a child,” he quipped, “the prize for coming here and saying the 12 Torah passages was a chocolate covered marshmallow.”

Farther south, in Hebron, an estimated 300 people turned out for an evening parade coordinated by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Danny and Batsheva Cohen. Carrying torches, the city’s children led the parade of floats, which depicted the concepts of brotherly love and Jewish unity.

Throughout the night, Israel Defense Force soldiers stationed in the area made their way to the celebrations.

“This is the first time that we had the parade at night,” said Cohen. “Everyone from the kids to the soldiers had a great time.”

Celebrated on Monday night and Tuesday this year, Lag B’Omer marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the mystic sage credited with authoring the foundational Kabbalistic text of the Zohar. Before his passing, he instructed his students to celebrate the day as heralding the dissemination of the Torah’s esoteric teachings.

In modern times, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, encouraged communities everywhere to hold parades and other large gatherings as a demonstration of Jewish pride.

Cohen related that Hebron has a unique connection to Lag B’Omer: Almost 100 years ago, the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, wrote to the city’s Chasidim about the importance of the Lag B’Omer bonfire, and requested that they purchase the honor of lighting it in his name.

Cohen noted that the practice continues, with today’s community lighting its bonfire in the Fifth Rebbe’s memory. The honor of actually igniting the fire was given to Leibel Zisman, a Holocaust survivor who resides in New York.