Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

Fire and Light in the Forest

16 May 2017                                                       
Fire and Light in the Forest: LaG b'Omer 2017 with SCoJeC

Around 200 people of all ages from all around Scotland converged on Callendar Wood in Falkirk to celebrate the minor Jewish festival of LaG b’Omer with woodland activities provided by the Forestry Commission Scotland.

The event was organised by SCoJeC in association with Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, buses brought participants from Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee, and there was a large contingent from Edinburgh. The event attracted many people, including many Israeli families who have not previously attended any communal events, around 20 under-5s and 30 school-age children – and 5 well-behaved dogs! We also managed to arrange excellent weather – a warm sunny day, despite the downpours the day before and after!

Fire and Light in the Forest: LaG b'Omer 2017 with SCoJeC

LaG b’Omer commemorates the end of an epidemic that decimated rabbinic students almost 2000 years ago, and the survival of Judaism despite persecution by the Romans. It is a popular holiday in Israel, where it is celebrated with barbecues and archery games, and many people visit and light bonfires at the tombs of the rabbis of the Talmud in Galilee. Bows and arrows are a traditional feature in reference to the rainbow as a symbol of divine protection after the Flood, and our activities echoed these, with fire jugglers, crafts and games, archery, storytelling, woodland walks, wild foraging and cooking, as well as a kosher barbecue.


Romena Huq, Engagement Officer at Forestry Commission Scotland, said: 

Fire and Light in the Forest: LaG b'Omer 2017 with SCoJeC
Fire and Light in the Forest: LaG b'Omer 2017 with SCoJeC
Fire and Light in the Forest: LaG b'Omer 2017 with SCoJeC

“Forestry Commission Scotland is always on hand work together with national organisations like the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities to support communities and help them enjoy Scotland's woodlands and green spaces. Our local woodlands and green spaces play a key role in helping community cohesion by providing a place of common interest for diverse groups and providing opportunities for people to come together and enjoy the great outdoors.”

Fiona Frank, SCoJeC's Projects and Outreach Manager, said:

“The LaG b’Omer festival is traditionally associated with bonfires and barbecues, and this year we added more activities for all the family to enjoy. SCoJeC's staff, especially Joanne Gabbay, our Education and Outreach Assistant, and our volunteers did an excellent job pulling all this together, and it was fantastic working with Forestry Commission Scotland who helped fund and support our celebrations along with Earth for Life. Like Forestry Commission Scotland we are keen to bring communities together and encourage people to enjoy the outdoors."

Joanne, SCoJeC's Education and Outreach Assistant, added:

"I've woken up this morning after the LaG b’Omer Fire and Light festival both elated and sore from running through the woods and grassy areas, socialising, and checking our guests were happy! My day in the forest was amazing after weeks of preparation. I am so pleased that we had around 200 happy guests and the sun shone!"

Feedback from participants of all ages has been excellent:

E, aged 7 3/4 said,  "Archery was the best bit – I had lots of satisfaction, using an arrow. I was the second best archer, and the most improved archer!"

N, aged 3:   "I liked the fire person best – I want to learn to do that!"

H: "It was nice coming in the train and walking in through the woods with two other families. There was a nice mix of adults and kids, everyone was looking out for each others' kids. One grandma pulled up a chair and watched our daughter for us when she was sleeping!  It was so sunny that I thought my daughter might get sunburned – I don't think about that usually in Scotland! There was a good cultural mix, of the rabbi doing his formal goodbyes and thanks, straight after the very muscular fire juggler in his kilt and dreadlocks."

R: "A very nice day out for the kids, with a bit of tradition behind it--and introduced us to a new park that we'd never been to.  It was nice to see other families, some of which we know.  And nice to be around Israelis and hear Hebrew spoken by children and adults."


Many thanks to Forestry Commission Scotland, Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust, Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, and the Jewish Youth Fund (Glasgow) for their support for this event.


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438