No Meron, No Hadlaka: Boro Park Prepares for Extraordinary Lag Ba’omer

No Meron, No Hadlaka: Boro Park Prepares for Extraordinary Lag Ba’omer

Boro Park - Come Lag Ba’omer, and a tiny village in Israel’s Galil transforms itself into the beating heart of the Jewish world.

You are more likely to hear the plucking of a banjo, or the beating of a bongo drum, in Meron, a hamlet of several dozen families. But on Lag Ba’omer the sleepy village is alive with a half million visitors. Music abounds in every nook, millions of dollars are poured into the economy through sales of oil vials and chai rotel kegs, and nearby hotels are packed to capacity, with people pre-registering months in advance.

But this year, the roads leading to Rabi Shimon bar Yochai are desolate. Its lanes, usually teeming with traffic control officers, are now empty, laid bare by the virus that has upturned social life in every aspect over the past two months.

For Boro Park residents, two options existed for Lag Ba’omer — go to Meron and go to any number of bonfires that dot the neighborhood. It is impossible to get away from the celebratory music blaring from every block and truck. Parade routes traverse the community, parks are packed with revelers and amateur archers, and the spillover of Meron is felt in every corner.

With coronavirus claiming yet another yom tov, Boro Parkers may not have either Meron or a hadlaka but that certainly will not dampen the spirit. Trucks that weeks ago carried trees through the streets for birkas illanos are being repurposed to ferry a bonfire. Music will be piped into every home and office. Three-year-olds will get their golden curls shorn for the first time, to proud gazes and congratulatory exclaims from grandparents looking on via Zoom.

Thousands of people migrated each year to Meron from Boro Park. Just one hadlaka, Stolin on 16th Ave. has an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 at night. Thousands more parade with Lubavitch at the 18th Ave. Park. All this will be missing this year, but the fire will still burn bright.

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