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Kibbutz Festivals

Kibbutz celebrations originated in the 1920s and 1930s as an attempt to recapture the "ancient Hebrew" – mainly the agricultural – character of Jewish holidays. (See Table: List of Published Texts of Kibbutz Festivals and Special Occasions.) Over the years they acquired a tradition of their own, as nearly two generations of kibbutz children grew up celebrating them. When the first kindergarten and school were established in each kibbutz, the settlers became aware of a need for festive occasions, both as an educational experience for the children and to relieve the monotony of daily life. The traditional Jewish festivals thus served as the basis for a revival enriched by biblical and mishnaic sources.


Passover (Pesaḥ) was the first festival to be revived in its seasonal context, as it is both the Spring Festival and the Festival of Freedom. The kibbutz *Haggadah – the Haggadah compiled at kibbutz Yagur was the prototype – was based on the theme of the Exodus from Egypt, but included events of a similar nature pertinent to modern Jewish history and kibbutz life, as well as appropriate passages from modern Hebrew literature. The *seder was held in public and became an elaborate function, with music and dancing, for members, children, and guests. The 1985 Haggadah of the Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad movement reflected a tendency to return to traditional materials.

The Counting of the Omer

The counting of the Omer (Sefirat ha-Omer). An *omer festival based on biblical and mishnaic sources was inaugurated, symbolizing the harvesting of the first ripe grain. On the eve of the first day of Passover, kibbutz members and their children formed a procession and went singing and dancing to the fields. A number of ears of grain were ceremonially cut, to be placed in the communal dining hall as part of the Passover decorations.

The Festival of the First Fruits

The Festival of the First Fruits (Ḥagigat ha-Bikkurim) takes place during the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and marks the peak of the first grain harvest and the first ripe fruits. The seven species mentioned in the Bible (wheat, barley, vines, pomegranates, olive trees, fig trees, and honey; Deut. 8:8) are represented graphically and through song and dance. There were also mass rallies to bring offerings of first fruits to the *Jewish National Fund.

The Sheepshearing Festival

The Sheepshearing Festival (Ḥagigat ha-Gez) originated in the 1920s in the Valley of Jezreel, and is based on biblical sources. It was celebrated only in kibbutzim that own flocks, and symbolizes the joy of the shepherd when the shearing is finished. The last sheep is ceremonially sheared to the accompaniment of singing and dancing. Short plays are performed, usually on the theme of I Samuel 25 (the story of Abigail and Nabal), and displays of woolen goods and art on pastoral themes are held.

The Festival of the Vineyards

The Festival of the Vineyards (Ḥagigat ha-Keramim). Several attempts were made to revive this festival, mentioned in the Mishnah (Ta'an. 4:8) and held on the 15th of Av. Festivities combined music, choreography, poetry, and love songs.

The Harvest Festival

The Harvest Festival (Ḥagigat ha-Asif), which was added in the 1950s to Tabernacles (Sukkot), has as its themes the gathering of the second grain crop and the autumn fruit, the start of the agricultural year, and the first rains. Based on the Water-Drawing (Bet ha-Sho'evah) Festival (Mish. Suk. 5:1–4), it is celebrated in some kibbutzim at night around the swimming pool.

Anniversaries of events important in the history of a particular kibbutz inspire many pageants, acted by the members and their children. Marriage and bar mitzvah ceremonies are celebrated, as are Children's Day, and the day on which the young people of the kibbutz become members. Martyrs and Heroes Day on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (the 27th of Nisan) commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and is marked by memorial ceremonies and dramas on the subject of the Warsaw Ghetto and other Jewish resistance. Other festivals, such as the 15th of Shevat, Hanukkah, and Israel Independence Day (the 5th of Iyyar) are celebrated, but they do not take a form peculiar to the kibbutz. Kibbutz festivals symbolize the new life and farming background of the settlers, and are a rich treasure of Jewish folklore and culture. Providing outlets for the talents of those kibbutz members who are artists, poets, composers, producers, and choreographers, the festivals are a distinct contribution to Israel culture. An archive housed in Kibbutz Beit ha-Shitah contains extensive information about kibbutz festivals and cultural life.

List of Published Texts of Kibbutz Festivals and Special Occasions List of Published Texts of Kibbutz Festivals and Special Occasions

Name of Work Author Composer Publisher
Yagur Haggadah (for Passover) Yehudah Sharett (ed.) Yehudah Sharett The Center for Education and Culture of the Histadrut
Zikhron Hava'at ha-Omer (Omer Celebration) Shalom Postolsky Mo'adim series, "Pesah," (5.3.1946) JNF and Ommanut magazine (M. Lipson, ed.)
Hava'at ha-Omer (Omer Celebration) Matityahu Shelem Matityahu Shelem The Center for Education and Culture of the Histadrut

Kibbutz Festivals

Massekhet ha-Omer (Omer Celebration) Anadad Eldan Avraham Daus Reprint, Kibbutz Hefẓibah
Bi-Sedeh Koẓerim (pageant for the First Fruits Festival) Ḥanan Shadmi Yekutiel Shor The Center for Education and Culture of the Histadrut
Koveẓ Ḥag ha-Gez (Sheepshearing Festival) Matityahu Shelem (ed.) Matityahu Shelem Aguddat ha-Nokedim be-Israel
Shirim le-Tu be-Av (15 of Av) Dov Shay Yiẓhar Yaron in Y. Yaron, Rinnot, the Center for Education and Culture of the Histadrut
Shirim u-Meḥolot le-Tu be-Av (pageant) (15 of Av) Efrayim ben Ḥayyim Reprint, Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim
Simḥat Beit ha-Sho'evah u-Mo'adei ha-Mayim (Water Festival) Yehudah Sharett Onot, no. 4, Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad
Simḥat Beit ha-Sho'evah (pageant for Water Festival) Yiẓḥak Asher Karel Salmon Kibbutz ha-Dati (1958)
Tekes Ḥag ha-Asif (Harvest Festival) Anadad Eldan David Zahavi The Center for Education and Culture of the Histadrut
Yalkut Bar Mitzvah (bar mitzvah ceremony, anthology) Yehudah Sharett Yehudah Sharett Aryeh Ben-Gurion (ed.), Va'adat ha-Ḥaggim ha-Bein-kibbutzit
Massekhet ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Gevurah (anthology for Holocaust Memorial Day) Va'adat ha-Ḥaggim ha-Bein-kibbutzit
Kovez "B" le-Yom ha-Zikkaron, "Ha-Sho'ah ve-ha-Mered" (Holocaust Memorial Day) Ẓevi Shua, Israel Guttman Va'adat ha-Ḥaggim ha-Bein-kibbutzit and Moreshet (1968)
"Kelulot" (for kibbutz weddings) Matityahu Shelem Ha-Va'adah ha-Bein-kibbutzit le-Havvai u-Mo'ed (1968)
Kibbutz festivals for Israel's 20th anniversary:
"Yerushalayim" (choreographic play) Leah Yisre'eli David Ori Ha-Musikah ha-Yisra'elit, Ltd. (1968)
"La-Ḥag Mizmor" (Cantata for choir and orchestra) Yehudah Engel Yehudah Engel Ha-Merkaz le-Tarbut u-le-Ḥinnukh (1968)
Songs for Miscellaneous Festivals The Music Committee of Kibbutz Arẓi – ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir
Anniversary celebrations (playlets) Various kibbutzim


Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.