2183 Shavuot

I’ve been living and working in the kibbutz for about seven weeks now. Just as long as the period between Easter and Pentecost and just as long as the time between Pesach and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. It is one of the first parties I experience here in the kibbutz, and I don’t really know what I am experiencing. I think it’s sort of a harvest festival, just like Passover itself. But it also has to do with the exodus from Egypt.

Passover is the feast of the unleavened bread, which they eat because they don’t have time to let the dough rise, because they must leave Egypt like hell on their way to the promised land. And Shavuot is the feast at which the Jews commemorate Moses coming down Mount Horeb with the two tablets of stone, those two huge stones on which God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments with his finger. Shavuot is the festival of the law, of the rules and the conventions and of the inevitably rich harvest that you will receive if you keep all those God-given commandments.

That’s pretty much how I learned it all at school, and in church in Rotterdam, in that city where there is always pile driving, in that country where it always blows and rains and storms and where we call a day with a little sun a summer day, but where I’ve never been sitting on a combine myself. I do everything on my faith, from hearsay, say.

But now I am in the promised land. Now I am in a small, green kibbutz, in the middle of the Negev desert, where the fruits of the land and the results of our joint work are brought in with a festive procession. Yes, I know the day of thanksgiving for crops and labor, but that is no more than a boring weekday church service.

This party is warm and sunny and festive and friendly, and everyone is there and we look at each other and enjoy the fruits of the land. We ride horses and we are now sitting on top of an enormous combine, with which the barley has been brought in and with which the wheat will soon be harvested. We are not allowed to work for two days, only celebrate and sing. My God, how much we sang and danced! It doesn’t stop! Yet it is now already 44 years ago. What a time! What a wonderful time!

Ate Vegter, May 30, 2021

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