Israel news summary

Israel News for 5-18-2022

News Update

Security forces arrested 14 terror suspects overnight in West Bank raids. The forces came under attack during some of the operations, and responded with gunfire.

PM Bennett has instructed the IDF to use “all kinds of weapons” against terrorists. That could include attack helicopters and air-to-surface missiles.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will travel to Washington today for meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Gantz will also take part in events in New York and Miami, organized by the American Jewish community, with the participation of families of fallen IDF soldiers.

Israel has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organizations in Ukraine. Israel has also set up a field hospital in western Ukraine to treat civilians, and has provided food and medicine to the country. However, Israeli officials have been careful not to directly criticize Russia, which has a major military presence in Syria and has not prevented Israel from carrying out strikes against Iranian backed targets in Syria.

MK Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am party has agreed to support a bill that will subsidize academic scholarships for IDF combat fighters, lone soldiers and soldiers of lower socioeconomic status. The bill was expected to pass with support from the opposition, but doubts arose whether the opposition would oppose the bill in order to make the government look weak. But now with Ra’am’s support, the bill should pass.

Israel has an ambassador in Chad for the first time in 50 years.

Tonight is Lag B’omer, the 33rd day of the 49 days counted between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. According to the Talmud, during this period of time in the second century in Israel, 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva mysteriously died. One of the reasons given by the Talmud was that their deaths were punishment for their ill treatment of one and other. Whatever the reasons, the students stopped dying on Lag B’omer and so the rabbis turned it into a day of celebration.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews from all walks of life and religious leanings will converge on the town of Meron in the Galilee to celebrate the festival of Lag B’omer at the tomb of the second century Talmudic sage Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (also a student of Rabbi Akiva) who died on Lag B’omer and who is credited in Jewish tradition for authoring the Zohar, the famous cornerstone of the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical teachings).

According to the Zohar, on the day of his death Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai gathered together all of his students, who were the greatest sages of the time, and revealed to them the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah. During this momentous session his home was filled with an intense light, like a fire.

To commemorate this holy and mystical event, thousands of bonfires are lit in Meron and throughout Israel. In fact, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said that most of the air quality monitoring stations noted a rise in particle concentrations due to the many bonfires lit. This year private bonfires are prohibited, except for in specially designated areas.

The main bonfires in Meron are lit by prominent rabbis, including many Hasidic Rebbes. The first bonfire is lit by the Boyan Rebbe, as has been done for the last 100 years.

In addition to the bonfires, thousands of 3 year old boys are given their first haircut at Meron, following the Kabbalistic tradition performed by the Arizal, one of the greatest expounders of Kabbalah who lived in 16th century Tzfat. Hundreds of hairdressers set up shop in the area to lend a professional hand.

The festivities in Meron continue through the night and into the next day. As a result of last years tragedy, when dozens of visitors were trampled to death, this year all visitors must have tickets (free) to the event, in order to limit the crowds. Safety procedures have been vastly improved at Meron and police will be out in force to assure a safe event.

May the bonfires and prayers at Meron bring light and peace to the entire world.