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Eight fun facts about Shavuot in Israel

By Naama Barak

It’s time to get ready for what many consider to be the best holiday on the Jewish calendar: Shavuot. Coming seven weeks after Passover (Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew), the holiday begins this year at nightfall on June 4. Shavuot in Israel comes with abundance of fun, as you’ll immediately see. Just scroll down, piece of creamy cake in hand.

Shauvuot celebrations at Kibbutz Emek Yizrael

Shauvuot celebrations at Kibbutz Emek Yizrael (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

1. It’s time to brush off your water gun

Perhaps because it’s usually so hot on Shavuot, many Israelis, particularly under a certain age, mark the festival with a full-blown and glorious water fight. Parks, schools and other public spaces all become perfectly acceptable battlegrounds. Keep away from kids if you wish to remain dry!

2. And to wear white

Stroll through a shopping mall in the weeks leading up to Shavuot, and you might be led to believe that Israelis wear only white. And well, they do — for the holiday. Kindergartners usually don white tees, women opt for floaty white dresses and men go for white shirts and chinos.

3. Don’t forget your flower bouquet and straw basket

One of the cutest signs of the holiday here in Israel is the sight of little children going to nursery school wearing a crown of flowers and carrying a straw picnic basket, often filled with fruit and other snacks. The tradition probably has to do with the agricultural aspect of the day.

4. Enjoy the cheesecake

Shavuot is the holiday celebrating all the dairy products of the Land of Milk and Honey. Cheesecakes together with lasagna, quiche, pasta and cheese boards are all expected on the holiday table.

5. Head to a kibbutz

Agricultural communities such as kibbutzim and moshavim make a big fuss of Shavuot. During the time of the Temple, farmers flocked to Jerusalem on Shavuot with the first offerings of their land. Modern-day farmers also use the opportunity to display their hard work.

6. All-nighter, anyone?

The night of Shavuot is traditionally dedicated to Bible studies. According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites accidentally slept in on the morning of Shavuot, the day on which they received the Torah. And so, to make up for our ancestors’ tardiness, Jews everywhere have made it their business to spend the night of Shavuot studying Torah.

7. Pour yourself a glass of (white) wine

The combination of soaring temperatures and the Shavuot tendency to go for all things white means that the holiday is also affectionately celebrated by drinking icy cold white wine.

8. Don’t do anything special

Shavuot is unusual in that there’s no mitzvah unique to it. Sure, there’s the all-night learning and the cheesecake, but these are only traditions picked up along the centuries. This means that unlike Passover, no food item is off the menu; unlike Chanukah, you don’t need to rush for candle-lighting ceremonies; and unlike Sukkot, you don’t need to construct an outdoor hut.

So sit back, relax and take a sip of that white wine.

Chag sameach!




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