I’ve been washing black ash from my children’s hair. Lag Baomer was two days this week and Jerusalem took full advantage. The real day was pushed off so that people wouldn’t prepare their bonfires on Shabbat, so Sunday night was officially Lag Baomer and you couldn’t miss it. Thick smoke filled the air with a blazing bonfire on every corner, raising the already hot evening temperatures. It was definitely a night to walk around with Burnshield in my handbag.

Of course being Australian it is unimaginable that so many unsupervised bon fires are allowed outside every park, parking lot and all across the winding bike path that leads to the First Train Station. As parents we sent our children to their youth group bonfires with a prayer on our lips and dire warnings against playing with fire. But we had to let them go, we couldn’t prevent them from their night of charred potatoes, burnt sausages and roasting marshmallows until two in the morning.

This is where you enthusiastically exclaim, ‘Only in Israel.’

It’s not that no one cares about safety. It’s just that everyone is given space, including the children to learn on their own and build their fire safety muscles independently. They’re not scared of working hard, getting down and dirty and learning new skills. There is no whitewashed reality here. From the crooked shelves of supermarkets which could be more sterile and fluorescent to the green play grounds which have signs that announce the law that children under six must be accompanied by an adult. Which astoundingly means that children six and above can play at the park unaccompanied.

Undoubtedly this is a country that fosters independence. Where children learn about bus schedules and have their own Rav Kav bus cards from a young age. Where ‘not knowing’ is no excuse.

As the bonfires smoulder into ash piles throughout the city, I’m reminded what makes Israel special; its chutzpah, its Do It attitude, that gets people setting up folding tables piled high with drinks and BBQ food on the Jerusalem sidewalks on Lag BaOmer night. Laughing and singing into the wee hours of the night around their improvised bundles of burning wood, ignoring any fire engines that drive past. And miraculously I don’t hear any whining sirens that smoky, hot night.

Here’s a video my son sent from his group. It’s way too long. Watch the first two seconds so you have an idea what a lovely, heated, balagan it was. (And so that you can see that I am really not exaggerating.)