Monday, May 11, 2009

Bonfire of the Vanities

Click to enlarge
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No, not that kind. This kind.
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No self-respecting kid in Israel would settle for the piddly little teepee-style campfire we used to build to make s'mores or grill hot dogs on sticks. (Of course these poor deprived souls don't actually know what a s'more is, not having graham crackers here. Perhaps if they did they'd build more manageable bonfires.) To prepare for the annual Lag B'Omer bonfires (see the link above to learn more about one of Israel's stranger holidays) Israeli children spend weeks hauling wood, pallets, discarded wooden furniture, and just about anything else that will burn around town in "borrowed" grocery carts, hiding their stash somewhere their rivals won't find it.
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Then, come Lag B'Omer eve, all hell breaks loose.
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Every single vacant lot in the country is suddenly filled with two, three, four, five, even six different bonfires, with every group vying for the biggest and the best. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, I've seen teens with bonfires four, yes FOUR, stories tall. Thankfully my kids are still young enough that we require them to have adult supervision, keeping things down to the size of a small housefire or so. A few kids in Itai's class are allowed out unsupervised but his mean rotten mother told him tonight in no uncertain terms that he is not allowed to visit their fire (or anyone else's) until his father comes home to take him. I'm picky that way, I prefer my children lightly seared, not charbroiled.
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His class had their official bonfire last night (in a lot which contained four other bonfires one right next to the other). Itai is the one in the red shirt, watching their fire with a few friends. The other fires you see in the background are other classes from other schools. Vacant lots are in short supply in the city.
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Here's their bonfire as it was just getting started.
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I'd show you pictures of the main event this evening but I'm home hiding, house closed up tight and all laundry safely taken in. My long-suffering husband is out with the kids - two of mine and one other who's sleeping over so they can watch a big soccer match on tv later - with grill (because the fires are too big to actually cook over), chairs, corn on the cob, drinks and assorted salads in tow. (I forgot to buy more hotdogs. Somehow I suspect they'll manage, since in typical Israeli fashion each family is likely to bring enough food for an army.) It's not even completely dark yet and there's already a red glow in the sky and the air is filled with wood smoke. By tomorrow the entire country will smell like a four-alarm fire.

It's grand, isn't it?

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Visit Ruby Tuesday for more red shots, hopefully of things that are less of a fire hazard and which don't send this asthma-suffering blogger into hiding.
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31 comments:

Flea said...

THat sounds WONDERFUL. My kids would go nuts. Thanks for sharing!

Daryl said...

So basically this is training camp for arsonists?

I dont get it ... I mean I do get the lure of flames as they lick the sky but I am not sure I get why people compete .. okay, I do get the competition part ...


In the best Gilda Radner voice possible: Never mind.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This would terrify me since I have such small children who LOVE fire (grilling is stressful at our house) - but it must be spectacular.

kaye said...

It is grand! I love a good roaring fire.

ilanadavita said...

Great idea; lag B'omer and RT together.
Why does it seem that only in Israel people have bonfires for this holiday?

Neas Nuttiness said...

I have grandsons that would be so into this...I really do believe that they could be potential arsonists. Two of them actually burned down a house once...but don't tell anyone!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

What an interesting custom! I might have a touch of pyromaniac in my blood. ;-)

We aren't allowed to have fires without fire permits here so I'm assuming everyone gets them. Well, at least the fire department is on alert, I'm sure.

judi said...

ditto Daryl, and you have way to much fun!

Mirage said...

I love smores! But not on big bonfires like that! :D

Territorial said...

That's a serious fire!!!

Ralph said...

Now that is a fire! Huge flames, a variety of color, including red. Wood pallets are good for more than shipping stuff...They feed the fire. Bonfires can be fun - even with Dad in tow!

Paz said...

Wow! It IS grand and those kids are having lots of fun. ;-)

Paz

Jill said...

Oh I so remember this holiday - and the smell of bonfires for days. What fun!

Robin said...

Ahhhh, wow, I've missed you (been incognito for awhile..busy!) but you always make me smile! I love the normalcy you bring to what others would consider abnormal...you so subtly say..."It's not WRONG...it's just DIFFERENT!" My mantra but you live it...you're great, keep us posted!

Mar said...

I am actually scared of any kind of fire (even fireworks!!), but it was very interesting to read your post. Love your shots too!
My RT, happy Tuesday!!

Greyscale Territory said...

I guess this is a great way of cleansing the home of unwanted debris! Bonfires are certainly fascinating and this is indeed a most unusual tradition!

Marie Reed said...

They do something similar in Germany. There is always an Easter fire and is supposed to symbolize cleansing:) People even save their Christmas trees so that they can throw them on the bonfire!

Auntie E said...

Bonfires are really enjoyable to children. the smell reminds me of Fall. I love the Fall Smells

Catherine said...

A funny tradition for whatever age.
Never heard of it before. Children are often mesmerize by fire, that's a way to learn them the danger before they try to do it by themselves..
I like your title, Robin, and the first picture that goes with.

maryt/theteach said...

Yikes, Robin, bonfires in vacant lots all over the place. Makes me nervous... You can't even burn autumn leaves in the gutter here anymore. The holiday was listed in my PDA and to me it sounded Gaelic. Ha! Happy Ruby Tuesday!:)

Raven said...

Interesting post. It's an interesting world. I love all the strange things people do. I think you are wise to supervise your kids. Your LagBa link took me to a page that said it was too new to show up. I found this one instead.

moosh said...

Bonfires are fun but it is so dry here they have to be controlled. Four thousand acres just burned about 10 miles from my home.

JuneMoonToon said...

Great photos. Interesting blog, I'll be back.

Gilit Frank said...

I hope the wood was the right kind, and not the painted kind that emits cancerous fumes...just heard about that recently....didn't know that painted wood was so dangerous....i just came back from a lag ba'omer picnic for singles a day late...as long as it was far away from my laundry, i was happy....great photos, gotta sleep now (NOT IN A TENT!)

Eaton Bennett said...

Hey Robin, I find this strangely alarming...:) Does anyone ever get hurt? And I think you are absolutely right to keep you children out of harms way and supervised. The world over there are strange customs and holidays, I guess this in no more unusual than many others.

You're having a more interesting RT than I am. :))

at the cottage said...

I enjoy reading about different customs. I like watching controlled fire, at a distance -
Lag B'Omer eve sounds like a fun evening.

Cheers

Deb

Sreisaat said...

What a fun tradition! But be careful with the fire, kids get too excited!When I was a girl scout, I've always looked forward to our bonfire nights :)

Thanks for sharing and extending invite to your Summer Stock Sunday. See you then!


Postcards Crossing

Robin said...

It was just old pallets mainly Gilit. The painted wood isn't good either, but what's really dangerous is the mdf, like when people burn old closets and such. That you really need to watch out for, it's awfully toxic.

The Bumbles said...

Wow - I have a bunch of friends who would fit right in with all of this. They believe permits are for sissies. They might in fact burn the whole country down with their excitement and inner competitive streak. Hmmm - maybe I'll keep this bit of information to myself after all - for your own safety.

Janet said...

That bonfire is beautiful!!!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Thank you for sharing this! Sounds SO COOL! Although I'd probably be sneezing my head off at all the smoke!

And, you don't have s'mores? Oh, girl, I want to mail you graham crackers! Really!