Although Israel formally postponed the Lag b’Omer vacation by a day due to Haredi demands, bonfires were still lit last night, resulting in a first wave of air pollution. Tonight (Sunday), a second wave of bonfires will be lit across the country, reducing air quality even further.


Illustration Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Officially, the Lag b’Omer vacation was postponed by a day, but thousands still lit their polluting bonfires last night (Saturday). Throughout the country, higher than normal concentrations of air pollutants were measured today due to the holiday bonfires.

Air quality measurements carried out by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection’s National Air Monitoring Network indicate that there has been an increase in the concentration of particulates passing through most of the air monitoring stations. The concentrations increased last night (Saturday), reaching a peak between 12:40 AM and 4:30 AM. Tonight, with a second round of bonfires, more severe air pollution is expected, likely to be exacerbated by weakening winds.

For example, in Bnei Brak, a 163 particle concentration was measured, 5.4 times greater than concentration on a clear day. In Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, a 198 particle concentration was measured, which is 6.6 times greater than normal. At the same time, it is important to note that during times of severe pollution due to haze, pollutant concentration can reach higher numbers.

However, the Ministry of Environmental Protection reported that measurements taken in the Dan region showed lower concentrations of particles than those in Jerusalem, likely due to the decreased amount of open space within the cities, as well as a greater number of communal bonfires than individual bonfires.

The ministry has published several guidelines to reduce the fires’ air pollution. Nylon and plastic materials, including Styrofoam, should not be thrown into the fires as their burning not only releases bad odors, but also carcinogens. Glass and stones should also not be thrown in as they may cause explosions that could cause the fire to spread. Furthermore, the ministry recommended that communal bonfires be organized and that wood substitutes such as laminate not be burned.