Tania Shalom Michaelian
Writer, story-teller, educator

Shavuot: First Fruits, Water and Heritage

In 1924, the Bikkurim Festival was first introduced in the Jezreel Valley. The kibbutzim saw their agricultural labor in Eretz Israel imbued with deep historical significance, restoring their bond between the Jewish nation and its ancestral home after being in exile for  thousands of years. The symbolic ceremonies, represented through song and dance, may have reflected the values of the agricultural settlements of the time, but they were seeped deeply in biblical and mishnaic sources. They celebrated the peak of the first grain harvest, the first ripe fruits and the seven species (wheat, barley, vines, olive trees, pomegranates, honey and fig trees) as mentioned in the Bible.

Omer Festival, Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan, 1940s. (Pikiwiki_Israel_13569)

Shavuot in Israel is one of those holidays which has evolved over time with its own symbols and traditions. In traditional circles, it is customary to stay up all night to learn, to read the Book of Ruth and to go to synagogue to hear the 10 Commandments.

It is also a holiday which has become a dairy-lovers dream, with meals focused on meat-free feasts such as pasta, salads, yoghurts, cheeses and of course, the star of the show, cheesecake. There are many explanations as to how this practice of eating dairy came about, but the one I like best is derived from Exodus 3:8 which mentions the “land flowing with milk and honey” that was promised to the Israelites.

Shavuot has also become the unofficial Israeli Water Festival, where kids and adults alike blast each other with water guns and water balloons. This fun tradition originated from the Jews of North Africa, who would pour water on one another over Shavuot as a way to protect them from harm during the year.

However and wherever you choose to celebrate Shavuot, coming up this week on Thursday, May 25, know that you are dipping deep into your history and heritage.

Here are five great ways that you can mark the holiday with family-friendly options across the land brought to you by the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS)

Yellin House in Motza, Jerusalem

What: Local Craft Fair

When: Tuesday, May 23rd 15:00 – 19:00

More details: Pharmaceutical products made from natural substances, sustainable art and games; locally-made beer and food, special exhibit space for ‘Artists of Tomorrow’ – youth promoting their own sustainable art products


Games and crafts at Yellin House, Motza. Credit: SPIHS

HaEmek Museum, Kibbutz Yifat, Galilee

What: Bikkurim Festival and Shavuot activities

When: Friday, May 26th; from 9 am. Ceremony at noon

More details: Bikurim ceremony will take place against the backdrop of the beautiful valley, accompanied by the Pa’amon Choir.  Shavuot activities throughout the site, all day include: Guided tours for the whole family around the museum, the cow sheds and the honey pavilion; creative workshops to make head pieces and floral displays; flower path; riddle games; exhibitions; play areas including an old tractor yard; digital treasure hunt game; period costumes for selfies; cafeteria

Cost: Children from 2 + and adults – 35 NIS; pensioners, disabled, soldiers – 18 NIS; residents of Jezreel Valley – 27 NIS

Ticket costs include all of the above, except separate pita making workshop and natural art workshop

Link to purchase tickets: Click Here

Bikkurim Festival at Kfar Masaryk. Credit: SPIHS

Palmach Cave Site, Mishmar Ha’emek, Jezreel Valley

What: Fun and educational experience for the whole family

When: Thursday, May 25th; 9:00 am– 12:00 noon

More details: Immersive guided tours in the Palmach Cave, natural footpaths, training equipment for all ages in the spirit of the Palmach, period costumes for selfies, arts and crafts

Pre-registration required: Ella – 04-9896121; Laliv – 052-3236974; Dina – 050-5760948

Cost: Adults (over 12) – 30 NIS, Pensioners and children (4 – 12) – 20 NIS

Palmach Cave Site Mishmar Ha’Emek. Credit: SPIHS

National Maritime Museum, Haifa

What: Hands-on creative workshop themed on the ‘Festival of Water’ where participants build a tiny ocean environment in a jar with fish, sea creatures, sunken treasures and more.

When: Thursday, May 25th, 11 am

More details: Suitable for over 5+

Cost: 25 NIS/participant. Click here to purchase tickets: Click Here 

Regba Aqueduct, Mateh Asher, Northern Israel

What: Shavuot activities

When: Friday, May 26th + Saturday May 27th

More details: Guided tours 1.5 hours in length. Explore the wheat growing process. Build models from straw of original aqueduct. Draw water from the wells. Walk through water in Turkish aqueduct

Cost: Adults – 40 NIS, Children (3+) – 35 NIS, Pensioners – 35 NIS

Pre-registration required: Click Here

Regba Aqueduct. Credit: SPIHS


The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) is the umbrella group for over 200 sites across the country, from the Negev to the Galilee and everywhere in between. SPIHS was established to preserve and commemorate historical sites related to Israel’s pathway to independence; sites not covered by Israel’s Antiquities Law. Some 3.3 million people visit Israel heritage sites each year, from school children and soldiers, to local and international travelers. SPIHS runs annual festivals, education days, musical and theatrical performances, seminars, youth movement meetups and cultural events, telling the story of our rich heritage in an educational, immersive and entertaining way to all ages and sectors.

About the Author
Grew up in South Africa. Found a home in Israel. Mom to three adult sabras. Writer on topics that inspire me - history, Israel and social justice. English tutor.
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