Israel — While some in Israel are enjoying the first flush of summer of recent days, hitting the beach and packing out the cafes and boulevards, the unseasonably hot weather has brought the usual spate of wildfires and heatstroke cases.
Hundreds of people celebrating the Lag Ba’omer holiday this weekend at the traditional gathering in Meron needed treatment for the effects of the weather. Some 300 paramedics were on hand at the packed site near Safed to treat the 450 or so who suffered from dehydration, heat stroke and even fainting, the Magen David Adom rescue service said. Eighteen of those treated needed hospitalization, the service said.
The grave site of Shimon Bar Yohai, the central Lag Ba’omer attraction in Israel, drew hundreds of thousands of visitors, causing massive traffic jams in the area, Israel Radio reported. The hundreds of buses provided for the occasion had difficulty exiting the packed parking lots, leaving thousands stranded in the heat until the jams could clear, the report said.
Hundreds of cases of fainting, severe dehydration, and heat exhaustion were reported in the parking lots and near the grave site. Police and Magen David Adom officials said they were passing out bottles of water to help prevent further dehydration.
With temperatures creeping into the mid 30s, the heat wave, combined with strong winds and Lag Ba’omer bonfires, also led to an outbreak of fires throughout the country.
Israeli firefighters combated fires throughout the country on Saturday and Sunday. One of the larger blazes occurred near Rosh Ha’ayin on Saturday, and required 20 crews to bring it under control.
This is the second spell of extremely hot weather to hit Israel so far this year. The first wave came in March around the same time as the Tel Aviv Marathon. The full marathon was canceled and a 29-year-old man died attempting to run the half-marathon. A further 80 participants required medical treatment during and after the race.