Bikurim Celebration, Shavuot, Kibbutz Hazoreah, 1940
This is a photograph of members of Kibbutz Hazoreah in 1940. In the centre of the picture, two of the kibbutz members are carrying a bunch of grapes, imitating the image of the spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land. This large bunch of grapes is a symbol of the richness of the produce of Israel. Next to the men are other members of the kibbutz, holding hands with children who are wearing keffiyehs – headscarves seen as traditional Israeli dress.
The photo was taken at the bikurim (first fruits) ceremony, a very common Shavuot celebration on kibbutzim. The purpose of the ceremony is to demonstrate the gratitude and pride of the kibbutz members in the produce of the previous year – both the agricultural yield and the new children born on the kibbutz.
These pioneering kibbutz members showed courage and perseverance in spite of the difficult conditions in Israel before the establishment of the state: there was no electricity, water or roads, and they confronted many threats to their security. The pioneers were mostly young people who came to the kibbutz for ideological reasons, but very few had experience of working the land. All this made the bikurim ceremony even more special, since the pioneers felt they had much to be thankful for.
Teachers of Jewish History could use this photograph when teaching about the establishment of kibbutzim and about life in Israel in the 1940s. This photograph demonstrates the connection of the secular kibbutz members to ancient Jewish traditions, such as bikurim, which led them to adapt the laws of the Bible to their modern agricultural life. In this context, the photograph could also be shown in Jewish Studies lessons preceding Shavuot.
Describe the photograph.
Who are the people in the photograph?
Why are they carrying grapes?
What are the children wearing on their heads? Why do you think they are wearing these?
Describe the buildings.
Are there many buildings?
Are there any other settlements in the background? Is this a densely populated area?
Are there trees and gardens? What does this tell you about the place?
This photograph shows members of Kibbutz Hazorea. What were the living conditions of these kibbutz members in 1940?
Compare between kibbutz conditions in 1940 and today. How do you explain these differences?
This photograph is of a bikurim ceremony. What are the bikurim? What was done with the bikurim in the time of the Bible?
How is the bikurim ceremony celebrated in kibbutzim today and why?