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Friday, May 27, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XXVII) [L'ag B'Omer edition]

Today is L'ag B'Omer (it actually started last night).  I'll let those who aren't familiar with the observance of this day follow the link I placed.

Last night my big kids went off to make bonfires with their friends.  Adults and little kids invariably end up together... and the kids from about 8 and up make their own fires.  Zahava and I were very American about making sure there was sufficient adult supervision at Ari and Gili's respective bonfires, and we sent them off with strict warnings to come home if the adults wandered off.  I know... we're so not Israeli!  :-)

Amy over at Postcards from Israel writes eloquently about what she hates about this holiday (if one can call it that), but she and I have agreed to disagree on this.

All around our town - and of course all over Israel - people (religious and secular) gathered around medurot (bonfires) with family and friends.    Looking out from behind my house I could see a long line of bonfires already burning:

As I walked to the big Medura (bonfire) that the families on my street all make together I passed a very sweet scene.  A bunch of very young boys were sitting huddled together while a teenager (maybe an older brother of one of the little boys) stood telling them scary stories.  I didn't hear the set-up, but just after I took this picture he delivered the clincher and all the boys shrieked like little girls!

Yonah had a rough day yesterday.  He took a dive off of the couch and gave himself a bloody nose (and gave my wife a heart attack!).  As a result, we put him down early and Zahava decided to stay home with him.  I had wanted us both to attend our street's medura, but I ended up going alone.  As I approached the spot this is what it looked like:

The two little girls in the foreground we sitting transfixed by the fire so I was able to sneak a closer picture:

Everybody has their own idea of what food to eat at a medura.  The kids like marshmallows (a relatively recent addition to the Israeli L'ag B'Omer scene), but the traditional foods are potatoes and onions roasted in the fire.  Here one of my neighbors demonstrates the proper way to put them in the fire so that they can be retrieved later without a problem:

Several mangels (BBQs) were set up nearby to cook hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids.  But when the kids had had their fill, the adults got ready to eat some real food.  Here are some steaks that have just gone on the grill (the coals were shoveled directly out of the bonfire!):

And here are another batch further along:

I had wanted to take some pictures of the chicken wings that went on after the steaks, but I didn't want to handle the camera with greasy fingers.  :-)

On the way home I saw some friends from the center of town who had built a medura on the area behind our backyard, so I stopped for a little while to chat with them.  Gilad showed up there on his way back from his own bonfire and I managed to catch a shot of him as he told me how he and his friends had put out their fire with p... well, imagine the funniest way a bunch of little boys could extinguish a campfire and you probably won't be far off.:

One last picture to let you share the experience:

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on May 27, 2005 | Permalink


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Are the children at their bonfires segregated by gender? I ask because I can't imagine there'd be any girls present at Gili's, given how it was extinguished...

I loved that last pictre. There's something about fire, isn't there?

Posted by: Ilona | May 27, 2005 2:28:22 PM

Ilona... That's not the word I would have used, but yes. At that age the kids tend to divide up into like-gendered groups. I can't stress enough that, at least in our circles, this is entirely the kid's doing... and not something that is suggested or mandated by the grown-ups.

Posted by: David | May 27, 2005 2:42:54 PM

I think you've taken enough pix for several photo Fridays this week... So, do people eat the roasted onions straight? Or do you just put them on the steaks and burgers.

Posted by: Geoff | May 27, 2005 3:04:39 PM

I have to say I agree with Amy - I just wrote something similar on my most recent post.

But I would be interested in hearing how you disagree with her. Particulary since one of her major beefs with the holiday is the theft, which you ranted against in your last post.

Posted by: Dave | May 27, 2005 3:04:49 PM

As always, awesome pics. Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Essie | May 27, 2005 3:36:15 PM

Beautiful. Shabbat shalom.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | May 27, 2005 4:19:57 PM

Wow, that meat picture is mouth watering. Someone should send that over to PETA it would be the equivalent of a bomb scare.

Posted by: Chaim | May 27, 2005 4:26:29 PM

Geoff... You eat the onions as is! They are sweet and caramelized from sitting in the fire.

Dave... I agree with Amy that it is horribly wrong to vandalize building sites and cut down protected trees to have a medura, but I think these actions are the exception and not the rule. The kids in our area spent weeks collecting fallen branches from surrounding forests (I saw nothing green in the piles) and begging pallets from the local stores. I watched with interest as these caches of wood grew over the past week or two. In addition, many companies (mine included) send out memos telling employees where to find discarded wood from their shipping facilities (crates, pallets, etc.). I don't like the lack of adult supervision at some of the teen aged bonfires, but the Israelis seem to take that in stride. Towards the end of the evening I saw that most of the fires had been responsibly extinguished (or at least well contained) and I haven't heard about any injuries in the community. Amy hates the holiday and I love it. For her, the theft and vandalism carried out by a few bad apples spoils the whole holiday... while for me, the family fun, neighborhood bonding, adolescent independence and overall positive experiences still seem wonderful. Maybe after I've been here a few more years I'll also be kvetching about the bad stuff... but for now it still seems magical.

Essie... Why Thank you. And the same to you.

Doctor Bean... Are you feeling OK? I don' t think you've ever left such a short comment on Photo Friday. :-)

Chaim... Yes, and what I failed to tell you was that I had a big meat dinner (South African sausages) before I went out to the medura. I had to stop and think before putting milk in my coffee this morning. :-)

Posted by: David | May 27, 2005 4:35:53 PM

This sounds so nice and I tried to picture something similar happening in Fairfield..... um, er... NOPE... can't see it! ;)

Gili looked great... and it's nice that the 'middle aged' kids can have some freedom to hang out together.

Poor Yonah... if he's not screaming for no reason, it's for a really good reason!

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: val | May 27, 2005 5:09:43 PM

Very nice.

Posted by: Jack | May 27, 2005 5:49:49 PM

"Ahalan, Moishe? Huh? Oh, Avi...ahalan Avi...yes, could you book me on the last flight today to Ben Gurion? What" Military flight? Listen, I don't care, just get me on that flight. And don't argue with a hungry woman!!"

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | May 27, 2005 6:08:50 PM

"...and Avi? Avi??? Shabbat Shalom, hear me? Yes, a guten Shabbes. Yalla, bye."

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | May 27, 2005 6:10:22 PM

I can't help it, but since late yesterday afternoon, I've had this refrain running through my head (and Mr. Feliciano would not be too thrilled at it): "...C'mon baby, light my BONFIRE...try to set the world on fire."

Shabbat Shalom.

BTW... They ran the Nefesh b'Nefesh ad again in the Canadian Jewish News this past week, the one featuring your -- and Zahava's -- pictures. (wow, you're a "poster child".) Apparently this summer, for the first time, a full plane of people making aliya with the program will be leaving from Toronto, and not from NYC.

Posted by: Pearl | May 27, 2005 6:20:13 PM


Great photos, as usual. Your area looks and sounds to be more rural than ours, which means our kids have less opportunity to collect fallen branches. Your bonfire sounds wonderful - I'm glad you had a good time! Hope Yonah is doing okay.

Posted by: AmyS | May 27, 2005 7:10:26 PM

love the bonfire holiday.

Posted by: lisa | May 27, 2005 7:47:27 PM

This is so beatiful. It's a shame that we don't have any of those where I live. But I'm looking forward to trying it out once I keep my own household...

Looking at the pictures, I couldn't help but recall what I read in a Commentary once, how the Hebrew word for man ("ish") is derived from the word "fire", because just like fire, human beings can be warm and passionate, but if they lose control, they destroy everything on their path.

What a great metaphor! I think Lag B'Omer is a good way to remind ourselves about it, looking at the fire in its proper (controlled) context.

Posted by: Irina | May 28, 2005 1:21:18 AM

Val... Yonah is doing well now and shows no signs of his injuries. This includes no memory of what got him hurt in the first place so he continues to climb and jump on the couch! He tried to take himself out of the gene pool twice today by jumping off high places! Thank G-d he's sleeping now. [sigh]

Jack... Both you and Doctor Bean were uncharacteristically brief. I hope you didn't overdo the tang.

mademoiselle a. ... Sorry I didn't see your comments before Shabbat. I would have sent the private jet out to get you! :-) Thanks for the laugh. Don't worry, if you can try to pan your next trip to Israel for a time slot when we are actually in the country, I promise to feed you and your hubby well when you come to visit. Shavuah Tov!

Pearl... You wouldn't believe how many people from around the US and Canada have written to tell me they saw our pictures in the NBN ads. I suppose if Andy Warhol was right then out 15 minutes is almost over. :-)

Lisa... I figured it would appeal to you. Oh, I've been meaning to tell you that I found kosher Lemencello here! I still want to make some according to your recipe... but this is nice to have in the freezer in the mean time.

Irina... I liked what you wrote, and I was relived to see that most of the fires I saw were well supervised and under control. I hope that this was the case throughout the country.

Posted by: David | May 28, 2005 9:44:49 PM

Thanks! Here, where I live, they used to allow BBQ out on the great lawn, but ironically, yesterday, I saw a sign that said we can't do that anymore because of fire hazard! : (

Posted by: Irina | May 29, 2005 6:06:55 AM

Thanks! Here, where I live, they used to allow BBQ out on the great lawn, but ironically, yesterday, I saw a sign that said we can't do that anymore because of fire hazard! : (

Posted by: Irina | May 29, 2005 6:07:32 AM

Although I also worry about the down side of Lag ba'Omer, like Amy, mainly the ecological effects, I do believe that it has an important psychological function.

Humans have always been fascinated by fire. The ability to control fire has been of crucial importance for mankind, so this fascination must be deeply ingrained in us.

The lives we live today are materially so far from the lives of our forefathers, but how much have we changed? Not a lot. People, and especially children, need to touch that ancient place in them. They need to sit around the fire and look into the flames in wonder.

Children learning to be people need to take control of fire, they need to know that they can. It's part of growing up. Hence many cultures have holidays and stories that involve "playing with fire".

I think the immense popularity of this festival, far beyond its religious significance, proves my point.

Posted by: Imshin | May 29, 2005 7:50:46 AM

Imshin... I see the trip to the 'Emerald Isle' brought out the philosopher in you! :-) I really enjoyed your reasoning. I have always been a bit of a pyromaniac when it comes to campfires and have never understood exactly why the fascination was so strong. Your theory has the ring of truth to it.

If I may be so bold as to build on your thesis; As scary as it may be for a parent to let kids take charge of fire... it is a very primal bonding experience for them where they sit among their peers and engage in the deadly serious business of managing a potentially deadly force. As I walked around on the way home from our big medura, I was pleased to see that even the fires without supervision seemed to have a few levelheaded kids setting limits for the wilder members of the 'tribe'. In short, important lessons were learned all around.

Posted by: David | May 29, 2005 9:07:21 AM

I agree with Imshin's comments about fire. But oh, I wish I could enjoy this holiday more than I do.

Lag ba-Omer and asthma don't mix well at all.

Posted by: Rahel | May 29, 2005 10:32:44 AM

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