The spring-time festival of Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving the Torah to Israel on Sinai over three millennia ago. New and innovative programs celebrating Shavuot were all the rage in the kibbutzim and in much of the new Israeli society of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
In that age, Shavuot lost all meaning as the holiday of the granting of the Torah to Israel on Sinai and became an almost hedonistic rite of the celebration of Jewish agriculture. Parades, dances, festooned donkeys and waving pretty girls in farm wagons, marches and bands all celebrated the feast of Shavuot and the triumph of the Jewish farmer, now unfettered by the shackles of the Diaspora and Jewish tradition.
All of this was accompanied by a mocking attitude towards the old-fashioned Shavuot and a tough and dedicated spirit of the new age – of Marxism’s triumph – that was to be ushered in together with the new fruits of the season.
Bialik, Tchernikovsy and others wrote poetry about our new farmers and the pagan glory of the new celebrations. In fact, some of the noted writers and journalists of that time wrote that it was certain that May Day, the international holiday of workers and Marxism, would replace Shavuot as the Jewish holiday of the late springtime. Ah, for the good old days of unreal Marxist naivete and doctrinaire thinking!
But the new and innovative Shavuot did not stand the test of time. Communism and Marxism collapsed in the detritus of failed economic planning and murderous dictatorial governments. The kibbutzim now are pretty much broke, both economically and socially. Israeli agriculture is currently almost wholly dependent on foreign laborers doing the work. There is no longer a May Day parade in most of the country and the red flags that were the banners of the brave new world are languishing in mothballs. The Shavuot parades and dances, the enactments of the joys of planting and harvesting, are all passe. The Socialists have turned capitalistic and the Zionists have become post-Zionists.