I attended a few Lag B'Omer bonfires in the states, and they were highly programmed affairs. A local Jewish day school purchased some wood and hay bales, brought in the local fire department to carefully light the materials, cordoned off a safe zone around the fire so that nobody would get too close, and organized singing and dancing activities to keep everyone busy.
Like so much in Israel, though, Lag B'Omer here is much more organic and authentic... and much less organized. For weeks, gangs of neighborhood kids (including the little guys in our building) have been using "borrowed" shopping carts to gather up pieces of driftwood, old furniture, crates, and basically anything else flammable that isn't tied down. In fact, it's a great idea to throw out things like old shelves before Lag B'Omer, because neighborhood kids will gladly strip them down and burn them. (We have a broken door-- with a broken glass panel in the middle-- that we want to throw out, but I'm afraid to because I don't want kids carting off the broken glass!) Kids gather these into piles of wood that they defend so that THEIR bonfire will be the biggest in the area. My husband remembers, er, a creative method he used to secure a huge log for his bonfire when he was a little kid... he can tell that story in the comments if he wishes. :)
Where the bonfires occur is at least somewhat organized-- in Kiryat Bialik, they happen underneath tall trees (yes, underneath... the trees actually get charred... it's pretty crazy) just outside the high school, alone the edge of the nearby fields. Different kindergartens and schools will congregate around different fires-- the younger kids first, then later the teenagers, who we found shopping for last-minute pitas and hot dogs as we went home AFTER the bonfire we attended with friends last year... their parties were just about to start. And yes, if you live in one of the apartments right next to where the fires burn... well... I hope you remember to shut all your windows before-hand.
If you fly over Israel tonight, you apparently see the fires dotting the ground everywhere. If you're on the ground, I hope you get to eat a hot baked potato cooked in one of the fires. Happy Lag B'Omer!
My husband and I (and our cat Zeus) made aliyah to northern Israel in April, 2008. In Israel, we adopted two street kittens who have proceeded to make up for kittenhoods of deprivation by growing remarkably fat and shiny. In October of 2011, we welcomed our first daughter, Nitsah. Moving to a new country demands both a sense of wonder and a sense of humor. In this blog, I'll try to share both! DISCLAIMER: I actually can't tell you how to be Israeli, because I'm still working on it myself. But at least we can muddle towards Israeli-ness together!