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Shavuot

Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the Israelites receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, is also one of the shaloshah regalim, the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot is a Jewish holiday, but it has aspects that are specific to the land of Israel.

According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly bloomed in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. For this reason, Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers, and leafy branches in honor of holiday.

The celebration of Shavuot is also called the holiday of bikkurim, or the Festival of First Fruits and Grains, a fulfillment of the promise of spring. The name means “weeks”, so named for the 7-week period from Passover to Shavuot.

In the period of the First and Second Temple, bikkurim consisted of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Baskets would be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and the oxen were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. In modern Israel, the tradition of bikkurim ceremonies continues, mostly at kibbutzim. The children participate in a procession of agricultural products, and donations are made to the Jewish National Fund for land reclamation.

Israel has a thriving agricultural sector, which supplies most of the country’s food needs. Organic produce makes up only 1.5 percent of Israeli agricultural output, but it accounts for 13 percent of agricultural exports. Organic farming is the latest trend in Israel. New organic farms are now visible throughout the country, providing fresh organic produce. The climate differences between the cold north and hot Negev desert enable farmers to offer a year round supply of a large variety of vegetables, as well as organic wine, honey and solar panels!

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