Israelis flock to national parks, beaches for Shavuot
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Israelis flock to national parks, beaches for Shavuot

With country racked by heatwave, Sea of Galilee in north and other water sites see large holiday crowds

Illustrative: Visitors at the Banias Nature Reserve in northern Israel on April 3, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: Visitors at the Banias Nature Reserve in northern Israel on April 3, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Some 50,000 Israelis visited national parks Sunday for the Shavuot holiday, as tens of thousands more flocked to beaches across the country.

With Israel in the grips of a heat wave, nature reserves and parks with water saw the highest number of visitors, among them the Banias Nature Reserve, Ein Gedi National Park, the Snir Stream Nature Reserve and the Gan Hashlosha National Park, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said.

The Palmachim and Beit Yanai beaches, both run by the Parks Authority, were at full capacity and additional would-be visitors were called on to stay away from the beaches.

Elsewhere, some 30,000 people visited the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret Authority said, with all 15 of the Galilee’s recognized beaches seeing large numbers of visitors.

Illustrative photo of Israelis at the Sea of Galilee on April 26, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Shavuot holiday, known in English as the Feast of Weeks, was originally an agricultural festival to celebrate the wheat harvest and ripening of fruits. It later became associated with God’s giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.

During the festival, many celebrants throw water over each other to symbolize the trust Jews put in God to provide them with water now that the rains have stopped until the winter.

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