Bikkurim Ceremony, 1940
This is a photograph from Shavuot in 1940, showing members of Kibbutz HaZorea holding the first grapes of the season. The kibbutz members are holding a wooden pole on their shoulders from which hang beautiful of grapes. This scene is reminiscent of the spies sent by Moses to scout out the Land of Israel who returned laden with fruit. The photo also features other members of the kibbutz, adults and toddlers, dressed in white in honour of the holiday.
Would You Like to Know More?
Bikkurim - One of the names of Shavuot in the Torah is the festival of the first fruits. These first fruits are traditionally of the “seven species” that were special agricultural products of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (Deuteronomy 8:8). According to Jewish tradition, the first fruits, Bikkurim, were brought to the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem, as described in the Torah: “The first, the crowns of your land, you shall come, the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 26:26).
Bikkurim Celebrations in modern Israel - The early settlements in modern Israel transformed the traditional Bikkurim ceremony into a secular agricultural celebration – first fruit ceremonies to rejoice the end of the harvest festival (another term for Shavuot). The first fruits in the kibbutzim, in contrast to the time of the Temple, are not only the seven species but all kinds of fruits, vegetables, livestock, and even the babies born in the past year. The ceremonies feature colourful performances of songs and dances and processions of decorated agricultural tools and machinery, farm produce, and young children.
Kibbutz HaZorea - This photo was taken on Kibbutz Hazorea, located in the west of the Jezreel Valley. The kibbutz was established in 1936 by German Jews belonging to the Werkleute youth movement. Werkleute was a socialist youth movement that later, in 1938, joined the Hashomer Hatzair movement. Hazorea is undergoing changes from the model of the traditional kibbutz. While it is still a collective society, changes have been made to allow more individulatistic ways of live such as privatisation of certain services. Kibbutz Hazorea is currently the home to various volunteer programs including Garin Tzabar (a program for lone soldiers from abroad), and the Wilfrid Israel Museum.
Symbol of the Cluster of Grapes - The picture of two people holding a large cluster of grapes has become a well-known symbol of Israel and is also the symbol of both the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Carmel Winery.
Jewish Studies teachers can use the picture to explore the festival of Shavuot and its various laws and customs.
Sociology classes can explore, with the help of this picture, the underlying religious themes that are present in Israeli society, even among non-religious communities. It could also be used when I think it would exploring the secularization and modernization of traditional customs.
Geography teachers can use this when learning about the agricultural sector and the celebration of harvest.
Jewish History teachers can use this picture to discuss the establishment of kibbutzim and the culture that was developed there.
Describe what you see in this photograph.
Describe the people:
What are they holding?
What are they wearing?
Where was this picture taken?
Describe the background – the buildings, greenery, view etc.
Reading Between the Lines
Which festival is being celebrated in this scene?
What ceremony are the members of the kibbutz participating in?
This is a Bikkurim ceremony that took place in Kibbutz HaZoreah on Shavuot.
What was the original ceremony in Temple times?
How did Kibbutz HaZorea, a secular kibbutz, adapt this religious ceremony to suit its secular values?
What biblical scene is being recreated in the photograph?
Search for information about Kibbutz HaZorea.
Where is the kibbutz?
What does its name mean?
Where did the founding members of this kibbutz come from?
What is the kibbutz economy based on?
How is Shavuot celebrated on kibbutzim today?
How is the festival celebrated in your community?
If you were to celebrate the “new fruit” of your family or community, what would you show?
Shavuot has no unique laws regarding its celebration, but a number of customs have emerged over the centuries.
Create a poster detailing these various customs.