Thousands of Jewish pilgrims in Israel's biggest Covid-era gathering

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews light a bonfire in a religious neighbourhood of Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer

Tens of thousands of Jews took part Thursday in a pilgrimage in northern Israel, in the country's largest public gathering in the age of coronavirus.

The annual pilgrimage for the feast of Lag BaOmer is staged in Meron around the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second century Talmudic sage.

Authorities had authorised 10,000 people to gather at the site of the tomb but organisers said more than 650 busses had been chartered from across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.

Around 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, with the police urging pilgrims to avoid incidents during the feast when bonfires are lit.

Israel's emergency medical service, the Magen David Adom, said it treated 85 people in Meron, some with light burns and others who had fainted.

Last year, the event was called off due to restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

On the back of the world's fastest vaccination campaign, Israel has since late February emerged from its third national lockdown.

Since December, more than 50 percent of the nine-million population, or about 80 percent of over-20s, have been fully vaccinated with two shots.

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