A Shavuot celebration in the wheat fields of Kibbutz Ruhama
By Ulla Hadar
KIBBUTZ RUHAMA, Israel — When my children were younger, one of their highlights in the season of Shavuot was to climb into a combine and observe from that vantage point what it’s like to harvest the fields. For some years we have not done this, as they have grown a lot bigger.
However, this year, as the holiday approached, my eldest daughter Anat (26 years) invited me to join her for a visit to the fields. My excitement was so great I concluded kindergarten is MY holiday.
Today, Anat is a kindergarten teacher in nearby Sderot for children with special needs. She had decided to take the children for an experience that she had remembered from her childhood. The children know me as I have visited the kindergarten and also have helped to host visits to Kibbutz Ruhama by these pupils. They came to Ruhama for a day of challenging sport with the organization “Etgarim”(the Hebrew word for challenge).
There may be no feeling more heartwarming than hearing the children call out “Ulla-Ulla,” and coming forward to hold my hand or give me a hug. Anyone who has this experience will feel her body refill with new energy.
In groups of two and three, the small children climbed under their teacher’s watchful eye to the cab of the combine. Once they were safely aboard, the operator of the huge machine moved it slowly through the wheat field, enabling the pupils to know the motions and aromas of that experience. To me it seemed that the teachers were as excited as the children.
There is something quite magical to see these large machines entering the wheat fields and harvesting them in a matter of no time. Surely, Anat’s kindergartners will remember the experience for some time.
The festivities of Shavuot (Festival of the Weeks) in Kibbutz Ruhama , one of the kibbutzim in the Sha’ar Hanegev municipality, took place in the afternoon of the sixth day of Sivan, corresponding with May 19. This holiday marks the conclusion of the counting of the Omer (Shavuot is celebrated exactly seven weeks after the second evening of Pesach) and the day the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. It is one of the shalosh regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. As well as being called Shavuot this holiday is also known as, Hag ha-Katsir (the Day of the First Fruits) Yom ha-Bikkurim (Festival of Reaping) and Hag Matan Torah (The Gift of the Torah). The seven species are the agricultural theme of Shavuot. The products symbolize the fertility of Israel. The seven species are wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey (from dates).
As always the celebrations were run by the agricultural department (Gesher – Giduli Sadot Ruhama) which is in charge of this local event.
Ori Levi as head of the kibbutz’s agriculture department oversees the planning and is active throughout the entire ceremony, together with his team of agricultural workers. Everyone is proud to show off the capabilities of the huge farm machinery utilized on the kibbutz. The ceremony includes dancing, with the agricultural workers arranging a dance with irrigation pipes; a bicycle rondo; a crop-dusting demonstration by a small aeroplane ; a balloon release with the wish of freeing captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his captivity across the border in Gaza, and off course all the agriculture machinery lining up around the big crowd .
Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
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