Haifa Hillel students volunteer at the Shavuot event.
While many secular Israelis find it difficult to relate to Shavuot, which they primarily view as a religious holiday, Hillels across Israel seized the opportunity to bring communities together around Jewish learning, music, and culture.
Hillel at Sapir College, together with the Cinemateque Sderot, initiated a large-scale community-wide learning event on May 17 in the spirit of Tikun Leyl Shavuot, the traditional all-night study which is customary on Shavuot. Hundreds of people from Sderot and the surrounding communities, including many Sapir College students, attended the event the day before Shavuot to enjoy the dynamic night of music, films, and lectures by renowned Jewish educators. A highlight of the evening was a musical performance by the popular Israeli band Madregot, as well as, a rock-piyut (Jewish religious poetry) show featuring Kobi Oz, a renowned Israeli musician and Sderot native, who presented his new program Psalms of the Perplexed.
"Hillel approached Tikun Leyl Shavuot from a different angle by providing an opportunity for people who don't usually have a relationship with the Torah to have a taste of that world through music, lectures, and conversation,” said Ilan Damari, lead singer of Madregot. “I overheard discussions about faith, and it was a conversation between religious and secular people. That's great! To me, that's the tikun."
In addition to the performances, lectures were delivered by Rahel Elior and Avigdor Shinan from Hebrew University, Leah Shakdiel, a social activist and lecturer at Sapir College, and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Director General of the Progressive Movement in Israel.
"Usually midrashim are considered to be 'religious' material’, as if it doesn’t below to everyone,” said Prof. Shinan, an expert on Jewish texts who recently published a new commentary on Pirkei Avot. “I strive to demonstrate that these materials belong to every Jew as does the Bible. I hope that I have helped to break down some of the barriers.”
That same night, Tel Aviv Hillel held a similar tikun leyl Shavuot at the Kibbutz College, with the theme of renewal and creativity while Tel Hai Hillel joined with Ayalim for a festive tikun leyl Shavuot in Kiryat Shmonah, on Israel's northern border. The festival included performances, booths, panel discussions, and text study about tikun (improvement) of our souls, our society, and our world.
On Shavuot itself, Haifa Hillel produced the third annual city-wide Tikun Leyl Shavuot entitled "V'ahavtem et haGer - And you shall love the stranger”. The event ran throughout the night and about 1,500 people participated in the event that included lectures and discussions in Hebrew, Russian, and English, as well as music and films. Among the participants were distinguished guests including Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, members of Knesset, professors and writers. The festival that took place on Mount Carmel in Haifa began at 9:30 PM and lasted until sunrise. As the sun came up, people joined for a festive closing celebration.
Watch the video from the event in Sderot (contains English subtitles).