a different side of Israel

Shavuot and ‘Bikurim’ – Enjoying the Season

By Maurice Picow

Shavuot FoodDelving through a mountain of blintzes, salads and cheese cakes, many people look forward to the festival of Shavuot, the last important Jewish holiday of the year and also known as Bikurim or ‘First Fruits’ of the harvest. The holiday, which this year fell close to the weekend, has caused thousands of Israelis to rush to their favorite supermarket to stock up on provisions which such zeal that one would think that it was a week long festival instead on just one day. OK, with Shabbat falling immediately afterwards, the festival did create a bit of a problem, as it usually does proceeding the High Holy Day holiday of Rosh Hashonah. And those not inclined to sneak over afterwards to “that ‘chazer store”, otherwise known as Tiv Taam, probably did have to purchase a few more grocery items – especially if they have children.

One thing that may have been the cause for the abnormally large supermarket crowds, as well as the congested highways Thursday was that the majority of people in Israel stay in the country during the festival, which often encourages them to visit the many nature reserves, parks, and forests while temperatures are still relatively comfortable. Israel is blessed with a variety of natural sites, offering something for everyone. Those who are inclined can take advantage of these green spots, as well as seaside beach facilities on the Mediterranean Sea, Dead Sea, and Gulf of Eilat.

ShavuotThe parks and beaches surrounding Israel’s only large fresh water lake, the Kinneret, are often very crowded, with many people camping out and cooking a variety of roasted meats on their barbeques or ‘mangals’. Even though many people now live in private homes or ‘kottagim’, many still love to experience a long weekend in the Great Outdoors. The unpleasant side of this experience includes the overcrowding and the debris or garbage left behind, often scattered all over the park or beach front. Numerous public advertising campaigns have recently been aired on Israeli TV to try to educate the public to keep these natural sites clean; as they belong to all. One particular public service one, was very well produced and shows a number of the country’s lovely natural wonders, while trying to emphasize the importance of keeping these sites clean and in good condition so as to be available to future generations. While various nature societies have become popular, and people joining them do make a greater effort to keep these parks and beaches relatively clean, many other people seem to care less and do not even appear to have a notion that by not picking up their rubbish, they contribute to the pollution and disrepair of what should be regarded by all as national treasures.

When one thinks about national resources, our forests and other natural sites are none the less valuable than oil would be (if we had it here in any quantities). We are unfortunately losing these areas, to over greedy building contractors, unrealistic public policies, and – worst of all – just careless neglect by many people who think that these areas will take care of themselves. We don’t all need to live in ‘villot’ and ‘kottagim’, and we certainly don’t have to use our natural sites as public garbage dumps. All it really takes is a little more concern by all, and we can continue to enjoy our natural wonders for many holidays and generations to come.


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  2. You’re just missing a little detail: Shavuot is the celebration of Matan Torah. 3318 years ago Moshe Rabbenu received the Luchot HaBrit (Tablets) and the entire Torah was revealed to him on Har Sinai.
    THAT is the reason for the season!

  3. EB

    June 5, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Freedom of religion…..
    Not what I learned at school!

  4. Hey, guys,

    give the one who wrote this a break! Yes, on an elementary basis, anyone exposed just the least to Judasim know this holiday commenorates when Moses received the Tablets of the Law from God at Mt. Sanai. These ‘tablets’, later incorporated into a 5 volume set known as the Torah, became the basis for Jewish moral law until the Talmud hAs hashed out under the grape arbors by the Senhedrin, more than a thousand years later.

    Aside from this (and for be benefit of all the secular folk who celebrate ‘Birkurim’, the ENTIRE festival is a nice respite until the High Holy Days in September/October.

  5. Don’t miss the point. This is a beautiful expression of appreciation for the gracious gifts God has given, as well as an acknowledgment of stewardship and responsibility. Thank you EB. I love to be encouraged to appreciate, we could all use (and do) more of that!

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