Shavuot in Israel is a great time to visit Israel and is one of my favorite days of the year. Here’s a bit of history about Shavuot celebrations in Israel, as well as my favorite ways to celebrate Shavuot in Israel.
Over thousands of years, Shavuot has been celebrated in Israel. Shavuot, the harvest holiday, is one of the three major holidays in Judaism, along with Sukkot and Passover. These three holidays are called the “reglaim”, literally translated to “legs”, because they are the three holidays upon which Judaism stands. Shavuot comes exactly 49 days after Passover. Over these 49 days, there is a literal countdown as part of the daily prayer, waiting for the day of the harvest. The crops were planted on Sukkot, received the spring rain on Passover, and now, Shavuot, it is time to harvest.
Shavuot in the Ancient Times
On these three holidays in ancient times, it was customary to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to make a sacrifice. During these sacred sacrifices, everyone would dress up in white in order to symbolize the purity and sanctity of the Temple. Since a sacrifice was made on Shavuot, it is believed that people would also celebrate by eating meat, a luxury for the big holidays in Jerusalem.
Shavuot from the 1950s through the 1980s
Over time, focus shifted from the sacrifice to the harvest. When Israel was established, the country was mostly inhabited by kibbutzim and moshavim, communal and socialist farming communities whose focus was in the fields all year. Shavuot was a very prominent holiday for the farmers since it is a holiday to celebrate the hard work in the field. These kibbutzim began a tradition that pretty much stands today – a festival in the fields featuring special dances, songs, and lots of tasty food. In these festivals, children would dance around with baskets of crop in order to symbolize the joy and success of the farmers. Instead of eating meat products, local dairy products would be used to make lovely cheese cakes and delicacies, because of course dairy was also a major industry for the kibbutzim and moshavim.
After the kibbutzim became more privatized, there were far less farmers, but the festivities still went on each year on Shavuot. Today, the tradition of eating dairy stands, in fact, if you are travelling in Israel now, you will see the grocery stores full of sales on milk, cheese, butter, and any other dairy products. In keeping with the customs of the kibbutzim and moshavim, there are large festivals with hay rides, singing and dancing, and of course tons of dairy desserts and foods. Most of Israel is urban today, but those who grew up on kibbutzim and moshavim, or live there now, know how wonderful the Shavuot festivities are.
Celebrate Shavuot During Your Israel Vacation
If you’re Israel vacation is over Shavuot, consider yourself lucky! Not only is the weather sunny and gorgeous, the atmosphere is unique. When I was living on a kibbutz here in Israel, it was always my favorite day of the year. Here are some suggestions for fun tours in Israel during Shavuot with Puzzle Israel:
- Let Puzzle Israel Catering cook you a fabulous dairy meal. Our catering team will use all of the freshest produce and dairy product to give tourists an unforgettable meal where during their Israel vacation the seasonal crop is the true rock star. To learn more about Puzzle Israel Catering and Puzzle Israel Culinary Tours, click here
- Go to a kibbutz and experience tradition -. any Israel vacation is incomplete without a visit to a kibbutz. So what better time to visit a kibbutz than during Shavuot festivities? See the children dressed in white dancing and singing, hop on a hayride, and try out driving a tractor with a true kibbutz life experience. Click here to learn more
- Visit Jerusalem with Puzzle Israel Jerusalem tours. Experience ancient tradition and make the trip to Jerusalem to share the holiday in the spirit of our ancestors. You can read more about activities and daily tours during the Shavuot holiday here