Since I've come to Eretz Yisrael I have frequently toyed with the idea of going up to Meron on Lag B'omer but, until this year, I have never followed through. To a minor degree, this was due to claims of less than reverent conduct that is known to go on in some spots and admonitions from some Rabbanim (Litvaks, as you would assume) not to go there on Lag B'omer in particular. To a greater degree, it was due to laziness and frugality - it is cheaper and easier to stay home in Yerushalayim. But I think it has been to the greatest degree due to fear. Firstly, the fear of messing something up as I have never done it yet. Secondly, the fear of getting squashed - I hate crowds! And thirdly, the fear of coming back with less than I came with (besides the money). Most specifically, coming back with less kids than I came with. Even though such a development would probably save a good deal of money, my wife still insists that when I go out with any number of kids, I come back home with at least that many.
Well, this year I took the plunge and I took a midnight express trip with only 2 sons (11 and 14). The trip went very smoothly and I managed to brave the crowds but still my main fear was realized. No, I didn't lose either of my kids but I left my hat on the bus.
Aside from that hats cost more than kids :-), kids seem to have an uncanny ability to find their way home all by themselves, even after we vacuumed up the trail of breadcrumbs (and gum wrappers). Hats just don't do that.
Anyway, Meron on Lag B'Omer is a lot like Meron not on Lag B'Omer except for many more people and a lot of free food. That's why, if you can pack a lunch, many gedolim say there is more Kedusha to go not on Lag B'Omer. I could see their point. Yet, there is still something mystical about visiting the graves of these deceased holy people on Lag B'Omer and that is - that it is being done by so many people who aren't deceased. Lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Hundreds of thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people!
Yep. An Arutz-7 news piece claims that there were already 450,000 pilgrims by 6:00 am on Tuesday. If this is so, even if the tide subsided, there still must have been well over half a million visitors all told and more like 6-700,000.
Do you realize what this is? This would be 1 out of every 10 residents in Eretz israel including Druze and Arabs! If we just talk about the Jews, it was probably more like 1 out of 7 (14%). Of course, they were not all Israeli residents. Many were tourists and foreign students in Yeshivas and seminaries.
600,000 Jews! And what kind of Jews?
Predominately religious Torah observant Jews. They were of all stripes and there were even some chilonim but the concentration certainly focused on the more devout. I would guess it was somewhere around 60-70% "Chareidi" (2/3) comprising chassidic, misnagdic, Yerushalmi, Chabad, Breslov and Sefardi-Chareidi - and the rest were Chardal, RW Mizrachi, Hilltop, traditional Sefardi, and smaller concentrations of standard "dati" and MO tourists.
How's that for labels?
In any case it was 600,000 or more Jews who all identify with the spirit of Lag B'Omer and Rashbi and there was no factional strife of any kind. Hatzala was there, ZAKA was there, and throngs of cops and I am sure they didn't see anything but the most trivial order of business.
The fact that so many Jews are anxious to participate in this pilgrimage and that this number keeps increasing from year to year tells us something very comforting:
We are alive and well and growing. and, except for our Yishmaeli cousins, we are the only ones.
A friend of mine sent me an email containing the following You-Tube clip. It is about demographics and it is alarming. It claims that for a culture to perpetuate itself, it must have a fertility rate of at least 2.11. That means that on average, every couple (2 people) must produce 2.11 people to maintain equilibrium. The minute it is less than 2 people (i.e. 1.9), they are not fully replacing themselves. Below 1.8 (lets say 1.75) there is a serious decline as every 2 couples (4 people) are only producing 3.5 people to replace them. At 1.5 you are down to 3 people replacing 4 and at below 1.3 the situation is called to be irreversible. I am not sure why that is but it means that out of evey 1M couples (2M people), there will be 1.3M offspring or maximun potential 650,000 couples. But not every person gets married (especially in the West) and not every woman conceives. (You may ask - how come it doesn't look like there are any less Chinese with their 1.0 policy? You got me there.) If this would produce even 500,000 fertile couples (a highly optomistic 77%), they would require no less than 4 kids/couple to restore the next generation to 2M total (which is not even 2M couples).
Pretty bleak, huh?
Well the video suggests that all Western societies (and this would certainly include secular Jews) - except for the US if we include the "illegal" immigrants - is well below the minimum 2.11 rate and many are courting the 1.3 "irreversible" figure. The developed industrial Asians (China, Japan, Korea) are not doing much better.
Not so our Yishmaeli cousins. They are beating the 2.11 minumum by more than 3-fold. Polygamy has its rewards. This means that in just a matter of time, they will simply overrun the West. All Western societies are shrinking, even the Westernized Jews.
But, as we see from our trip to Meron, the Jews that are not so Westernized stand a chance. Unfortunately we are not as fertile as the Moslems. This is partly because we only get one wife each, and we usually take them a bit older. Also, we do have hetterim for family planning and, unfortunately, ample reasons to take advantage of them. And the fact that they don't have to send their kids to Orthodox day schools (they are actually infesting the public school system in the West) and we do also takes it's toll.
Still we are holding our own and doing a great job of it under the circumstances. The people who oppose increases in child allowance payments should take a good hard look at this video.
Here is the video. According to the You-Tube listing, this video is up since March 30, 2009 - less than seven weeks and it hads already been viewed over 5,800,000 times! It is not for the faint of heart:
And as for us, even though Lag B'Omer may not be the best time to make a trek to Meron, we should take comfort in these numbers and keep the numbers growing, BE"H.
Because in 20 or 30 years it's going to be only us and them.
P.S. While we are in the neighborhood, let's have a look at another video about how a nice young Jewish girl is sidestepping the Shidduch crisis. I think it behooves us to do something not only about the Shidduch crisis but about the Jewish education tuition crisis but quick!