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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I love about Lag B'Omer

Last night and today mark Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer (the count which starts on the night after the Passover Seder and continues until the holiday of Shavuot).

I won't go into details about the counting or the reasons why the 33rd day is somewhat special (you can read about that here).  But one of the activities associated with the evening of the 33rd day (at least here in Israel) is sitting around a Medura (bonfire) with friends and family, singing, eating and basically having a grand old time.

I know from past years when I've written about this holiday that many of my readers hate the smoke, scavenging of wood (i.e. petty vandalism) and potential danger associated with the bonfires.  If you have to vent, go ahead... I won't stop you.

But I love the Medura tradition, and I love so many things associated with it: 

I love that my entire street gets together on the slope behind our homes and makes a neighborhood Medura, complete with singing, drinks and lots of salads and roasted foods.

I love that from our vantage point on our hillside we can see dozens of other Medurot dotting the landscape all around.

I love that there is a nice chill in the evening air which forces us ever closer to the hypnotizing blaze.

I love that the little kids ran around feeding twigs into the fires as their parents alternately yell encouragement and warnings to them.

I love that the humble potatoes in tin foil which are tossed into the flames at the start of the evening are elevated to star culinary status when pulled from the embers towards the end.

I love that Israelis (of every age and vintage) sit around the fires singing songs at the top of their lungs that they first learned in gan, even when they don't remember all the words. [la la lala...]

I love that at every Medura there is at least one person who remembers to bring a guitar.

I love that even tired, stressed Israelis look relaxed and elegant by firelight.

I love that once Israeli kids turn 13 or 14 they start lobbying to stay out (and up) later and later... until finally it is understood that they will be sitting around a Medura with their friends until dawn.

I love that at some point, teenagers start preparing a 'Poike'  (pronounced poy-keh); a big cast-iron stew pot filled with some of the most unlikely ingredients, and cooked over glowing coals, as part of their Medura ritual.  The recipes for a proper 'poike' are as varied and wonderful as the Jewish people.

I love that for days (and sometimes weeks) before Lag B'Omer kids team up to collect 'scrap' wood for their Medurot and stake out desirable spots for the blaze.

I love that the afternoon before Lag B'Omer friends ask casually about your plans for the Medura, and remind you to close all the windows in your house so the place doesn't stink of smoke for a week afterwards.

I love that when the singing dies down momentarily at one Medura, the participants can get ideas for new songs from (or even join in with) people singing at neighboring bonfires.

I love that as the evening ebbs, people go from Medura to Medura offering leftover food and extra wood.

I love that when pre-teen boys make their first Medura away from the prying eyes of adults, they have a 'unique' way of extinguishing it at the end of the evening.

I love that our youngest child Yonah (born here) has no idea that there are places in the world where Jews don't make Medurot on Lag B'Omer.

I love that Ariella and Gilad (our older kids) left us sweet notes informing us of their safe arrival back in the house, and asking (pleading) not to be awoken until absolutely necessary.

I love that most schools are closed on Lag B'Omer because the kids are all sleeping from having been out all night at Medurot.

I love that I don't have to explain any of this to my fellow Israelis.  They know.

Posted by David Bogner on May 12, 2009 | Permalink

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I love that I don't have to explain any of this to my fellow Israelis. They know.
Yes, we do. But one small caveat:
close all the windows in your house so the place doesn't stink of smoke for a week afterwards.
This plan only works until the kids stumble home around dawn in all their stinky, smoky glory...
:-)

Posted by: Mrs. S. | May 12, 2009 3:11:52 PM

I love that I know.

Posted by: Baila | May 12, 2009 3:38:58 PM

Gotta love the entire experience - it's priceless (like so many other aspects of life over there).

Posted by: tnspr569 | May 12, 2009 4:07:37 PM

I love that when you get up the next morning the air is still full of the scent of wood smoke.

Posted by: Simon | May 12, 2009 4:23:14 PM

is it really lag ba-omer? oh, so that's why i see people clean shaven and with haircuts.

signed,
galutnik

Posted by: Lion of Zion | May 12, 2009 4:56:33 PM

So when is it going to be officially renamed Lag laOmer?

Posted by: Raz | May 12, 2009 5:15:47 PM

A good bonfire is a worth a lot.

Posted by: Jack | May 12, 2009 6:24:31 PM

Ah, the difference between the topless young women being chased by drunk young men around the home coming bonfires in Kafirtopia, and what you described, friend. Makes me want to convert.

Posted by: Jewel | May 12, 2009 9:37:41 PM

A nice piece Trepp. Thanks for sharing; I almost feel there.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | May 12, 2009 10:26:45 PM

How lovely to experience this festival (we don't do it here).

Small note, in Afrikaans, a black pot to cook things in is also called a Potkje. It is just the diminutive form of Pot in Dutch.

Posted by: Noa | May 12, 2009 10:39:35 PM

Hey - we do it here!

But as special as it is even here, I'm left with knowing it is just not the same as there (because it is not there).

Next year...

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Kae Gregory | May 13, 2009 4:14:53 AM

Great Lag BaOmer Post.

I loved coming home and seeing all the bonfires still going on....

Of course, the petty vandalism thing does bother me. Sometimes it is not so "petty." And sometimes it starts really young! I couldn't believe it when a kid who must have been only 4 or 5 came over to our bonfire and just took a large piece of wood. When I gently explained that he cannot just come over and take our wood, he just started walking away with it. I could not believe it! In the end, I gently took the wood away, but if this is how this child behaves with his parents, I can only imagine his behavior in the future....

Still, I LOVE Lag BaOmer. And every year, I "let go" a little more...

I finally decided that it is not my job to educate the entire world about the danger and stupidity of burning formica or waving a red-hot stick around other people.

Though I really want to remember to bring a bottle of frozen water next time, to treat all the burns....

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | May 13, 2009 9:23:26 AM

I love that once Israeli kids turn 13 or 14 they start lobbying to stay out (and up) later and later... until finally it is understood that they will be sitting around a Medura with their friends until dawn.

When they get older, they don't pair off and go do things they can't do when their parents are around? Cuz that's what they'd do in the US.

Posted by: Kiwi the Geek | May 13, 2009 9:41:55 AM

"I love that when pre-teen boys make their first Medura away from the prying eyes of adults, they have a 'unique' way of extinguishing it at the end of the evening."

I hope that didn't mean what I thought it meant... :)

Posted by: psachya | May 13, 2009 10:11:14 PM

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