The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is calling on people to take human health, the environment, and animal welfare into account as they celebrate Lag Ba’Omer this year. As it is customary to light bonfires on the Jewish holiday, those who take part in this tradition are reminded to do their part to minimize the potential damage from these fires. The holiday officially begins on Saturday night, May 17, but will be celebrated by many on Sunday night, May 18, so as not to coincide with the Jewish Sabbath.
Because of the abundance of bonfires that are lit on Lag Ba’omer, there is a significant increase in particulate matter in the air on this evening. Monitoring stations have recorded pollution values of up to four times the norm in the past. These small particles can enter the respiratory system, and can cause major health problems in the long run, especially for asthmatics and those who suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses. Climate change is also a concern, since there are excessive carbon dioxide emissions from the bonfires.
The MoEP has issued the following tips to reduce potential health and environmental damage during the festivities:
- Do not throw any plastic or styrofoam into the fires, as burning these materials results in the emission of carcinogens.
- Do not burn furniture parts made from formica, MDS, or melamine, as they contain adhesives that emit hazardous materials into the air when burned.
- Do not throw painted or varnished wood into the fires.
- Do not throw asbestos into the fire, or any material that contains asbestos, such as roof parts, planters, water tanks and pipes.
- Celebrate in large groups, in order to reduce the number of bonfires being lit.
While the holiday of Lag Ba’omer is one that children usually look forward to for months, there is an unfortunate and cruel phenomenon that occurs each year on this evening: street cats and dogs are thrown into bonfires alive. Many of these animals are killed; others survive, but with burns and injuries all over their bodies.
The ministry calls on the public to be aware of this terrible phenomenon and to report any animal abuse they may witness to the police. We call on the Israel Police to increase monitoring and enforcement on this holiday, and to be especially vigilant to follow up reports of animal abuse.