My heart goes out to the victims of the terrible stampede on Mount Meron and their families. Saying kaddish for them two days later with a non-denominational congregation of Idyllwild, California, thousands miles away from the site of the tragedy, reminded me one more time of the oneness of our people. We are all grieving. No matter where in the world we live, what language we speak, and what denomination we identify with, if any at all, we all feel for one another when we suffer.
What brought 100,000 people to Mt. Meron that night? They were there as part of a hillula, an annual pilgrimage to the graves of sages, rabbis, and Biblical figures in search of guidance and healing. To learn more about this popular and growing spiritual practice, please see below a selection of sources on hillulot.
A large, detailed, and well-illustrated book published by the Israel Museum on various pilgrimage sites in Israel.
“Contemporary Jewish Pilgrimage” – an online survey of sites and practices
“Graves of the righteous” (Times of Israel) A depiction of a trip to a burial sites of a holy sage in Tzfat (Safed).
A video tour of Mount Meron before the tragedy.
I recently visited a sacred space as well, though neither Jewish, nor in Israel. While in Yucatan, Mexico, earlier this month, I participated in a purification ceremony with a Yucatec shaman – an experience, which in my retelling, juxtaposes Maya and Jewish beliefs.
And what about those traveling Shabbat candlesticks in the photo at the top? They came in real handy in Yucatan.
Lastly, or firstly, if your heart aches like mine for sacred places, but the time isn’t right yet to travel, you can visit the Western Wall anytime via a 24-hour live webcam.