Lag BaOmer is the holiday of bonfires and also of air pollution. It is very pleasant to sit around the campfire, especially as the spring nights are getting warmer, but although we do our best to evade the smoke it seems that it’s there even when we aren’t aware of it. Ask whoever did your laundry after the last campfire you enjoyed.
Using the website of the Ministry of Environment’s Air Quality Monitoring System we checked the air quality data for Lag BaOmer 2018. It emerged that while on ordinary days the respirable particulates (Particulate Matter PM10 – particulates whose diameter is 2.45 to 10 microns) veer between 0 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, on Lag BaOmer evening the reading was (at the station we checked, at the Efrata School in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood) 324 micrograms per cubic meter (more than a six-fold increase). At the same time it seems that the smoke, at least last year, vanished as quickly as it arrived, and the extreme value recorded lasted for only a few hours (We checked three hour averages). It therefore comes as no surprise that those who suffer from respiratory difficulties are advised to stay indoors.
Lag BaOmer is celebrated following a period of about a month that abounds with fires of various kinds, starting with the burning of chametz (leavened food) on Passover eve, continuing with barbeques during the Passover week, and the Mimouna holiday (186 micrograms of Particulate Matter PM10 per cubic meter were recorded in 2018), culminating in Independence Day (111 micrograms per cubic meter), which in addition to the fireworks boasts traditional celebratory barbeques.
The amount of smoke could easily be reduced, as could the suffering of those with respiratory problems, if people chose, for example, to have smaller fires (which would also be much safer), or to share one fire among several groups of picnickers.
Happy Lag BaOmer!
Translated by Gilah Kahn-Hoffmann