Jews on Thursday, following the Israeli authorities' recent easing of the country's lockdown restrictions introduced to combat COVID-19, began to celebrate the Shavuot holiday, also knows as the Feast of Weeks, which is dedicated to the anniversary of when they believe God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel at Egypt’s Mount Sinai.
The 2020 Shavuot holiday, which means weeks in Hebrew, lasts from May 28-29 in Israel. The celebration usually occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan and may fall between May 15 and June 14, according to the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish holiday occurs seven weeks after the first day of Passover, which marks the exodus of Jews from ancient Egypt.
Shavuot is a public holiday during which all government institutions, as well as public transport, shops and markets, do not operate. To celebrate, most families in Israel are traveling away from home to the northeastern freshwater Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, as the government has allowed visiting beaches since May 20.
The holiday also has an agricultural meaning, as in the past it also marked the time of wheat harvest.
On the eve of Shavuot, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met farmers, who have faced financial hardships because of the COVID-19 crisis. The president expressed his gratitude to agricultural workers, praising their efforts to save the country’s provisions.
The Israeli authorities have called on citizens to celebrate Shavuot with only those people whom they live with at home. According to the holiday’s traditions, Israelis should eat dishes made primarily of dairy products.
At night during the holiday, Jews should read religious texts together in a synagogue, but under the current health circumstances, only 50 worshipers are allowed to congregate in one place.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Health Ministry and Finance Ministry said that the country had allowed bars, restaurants, pubs and swimming polls to reopen. However, citizens are still required to respect social distancing rules and wear face masks in public places.
The Israeli authorities also announced that the academic year in the country would be extended until July 13. The country's schools, which were closed for more than two months, were reopened in mid-May.
As of Thursday, Israel has confirmed over 16,000 COVID-19 cases and 281 coronavirus-related deaths.