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Israel Observes Shavuot this Week

Israelis continue the Biblical celebrations of the harvest when they observe the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, beginning at sundown Tuesday(June 7, 2011).

The Western Wall is crowded during the Feast of Shavuot (Photo:

Shavuot, which means weeks in Hebrew, is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the first day of Passover. Many people believe that Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai. The scriptures first mention Shavuot in Exodus 32:22: “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.” The Israelites brought their first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem

It is one of the three pilgrimage feasts. God commanded in Deuteronomy 16:16-17, “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place He will choose.” The three feasts are Passover, Shavuot and the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot.

In Israel, Shavuot begins with evening prayers and a festive meal, mainly dairy. The Hebrew word for milk, halav, is 40, the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai when he went up to receive the Torah. Cheesecakes are especially popular on the Shavuot menu.

After dinner, many observant Jews will stay awake all night to study religious texts, say morning prayers at the earliest permitted time and, if they are in Jerusalem, go to the Western Wall, many people staying the night to pray and dance at the Wall.

The scriptural readings include the Book of Ruth. Biblically, Shavuot marked the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Ruth was gleaning wheat in the fields for herself and her mother in law. She met and married Boaz soon after.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. … On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:15-22

“Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you. And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees.” Deuteronomy 16:9-12

What To Do

In honor of Shavuot’s status as the “Day of First Fruits” and the “Harvest Festival” many of Israel’s kibbutzes and moshavs hold special celebrations of their produce. Check with individual locations for details.

Abu Gosh
June 7 to June 11
Choirs from Israel and abroad are featured at a festival at historic churches in Abu Gosh. The singing highlights the marvelous acoustics of the churches’ halls where it take place. The Festival’s concerts will be performed in the 800-year-old Crusader-Benedictine Church and the Kiryat Ye’arim Church, overlooking the village from atop the hill. Read about a past Music Festival in Abu Gosh at

Tower of David, Jerusalem
June 7
In keeping with the tradition of studying all night on Shavuot, all-night lectures will take place at the Tower of David. The program, A Garden Eastward in Eden, begins at 10:30 p.m. At 12:30 a.m., a guided tour by the Tower of David Museum Guides starts at the top of the Phasael Tower and continues out the Tower of David, through the Old City to the Western Wall. Admission is free. Read more about events at the Tower of David at

Nicole Jansezian writes for>, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

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