Shavuot in Israel

June 9, 2019


Eli Sperling, June 9, 2019

One of the oldest festivals in Jewish tradition, Shavuot is part of the Shalosh Regalim, or three Jewish pilgrimage festivals. These include Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Signifying a key moment in the Hebrew Bible, Shavuot commemorates the deliverance of the Torah and moral codes of Judaism to the Jewish people by G-d at Mount Sinai as they wandered the desert following their exodus from Egypt.

Much like many other Jewish holidays, Shavuot was ascribed new meanings as Hebrew culture developed in the Yishuv (pre-state Zionist, Jewish community in Palestine). With strong agricultural emphasis, Shavuot became a cultural staple of the Kibbutz movement (communal, agricultural settlements). This was likewise the case with all three of the Shalosh Raglim, and as part of Zionist reinterpretation of these holidays, new ritual traditions were developed for each. In the case of Shavuot, parades, spring harvesting rituals, dances and certain folk songs became closely associated with the holiday. These rituals augmented the already present traditions surrounding Shavuot such as staying up all night to celebrate and eating various dishes that emphasize dairy products as well as other foods grown in Israel: wheat, barley, dates, olives, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Today, Shavuot is celebrated in Israel through many of the ritual traditions established in the Yishuv period, and music and dance are central, especially in agricultural communities like the Kibbutz.