To celebrate the harvest festival of Shavuot – one of three pilgrim festivals during which ancient Israelites would bring offerings to the Temple – farmers will bring a first fruit offering to the president of the State.

Each year, farmers from a different part of the country come to Jerusalem bearing not only the seven biblical species of olives, pomegranates, grapes, figs, wheat, barley and dates, but also many other fruits and vegetables, including new strains that are exported to foreign markets.

This year it was the Megilot Regional Council’s turn, which brought not only its edible first fruits, but also its human ones.

Council chairman Motti Dahaman, one of the founders of Kibbutz Kfar Shalom, told President Shimon Peres that in recent years there has been a 20 percent population increase in the area, with many young couples and young families opting to live in the region.

“We now have a whole new generation of desert population,” he said, indicating some of the parents who had come with babies in their arms in addition to the group of whiteclad kindergarten children with garlands in their hair. It is customary to wear white on Shavuot – the anniversary of the giving of the Torah – because it symbolizes purity.

It is also customary to eat dairy products, not necessarily because milk, cream and cream cheese are white, but because the gematria – numerical value – of chalav, the Hebrew word for milk, is 40, which is the number of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai before receiving the Torah.

Dahaman also told Peres that 40% of the region’s income comes from farming and another 40% from tourism. The region is particularly famous for its dates which are in high demand abroad. Over the past year some two million visitors came to vacation or explore the region, he said.

Peres told the kindergartners how much he enjoyed their singing and dancing and the gifts that they had brought him.

“But the most important gifts you brought were yourselves,” he said, adding that all the children present were the products of wonderful pioneering families “who took one of the most difficult places in the world and turned it into something magic.”

Peres told the youngsters that they were welcome to come to the residence at any time they wanted in the future.

Dahaman told Peres that a poem the president has written once about Kalya, one of the most beautiful sections of the region, “has always been an inspiration to us.”

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