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Kaytana - More than Just a Summer Fling?

Hey Parents! Ever wonder why 'Kaytana' is a term hotter than a Tel Aviv heatwave?

Like in our times, even in the Bible, summer is the season opposing winter. However, in several verses, the word summer (קיץ) also signifies fruits, for example: "And ye shall gather the wine, and the summer fruits, and the oil; and put them in your vessels" (Jeremiah 40:10). It is commonly interpreted to mean summer fruits, particularly figs, as inferred from the Tosefta in Tractate Nedarim: "One who vows away from the fruits of the year, is forbidden all fruits of the year... One who vows from the summer, is only forbidden from the fig." (4, A-B). Some suggest that the word 'קיץ' (summer) refers to the action of gathering figs, similar to other action words in this form, like threshing, hunting.

Indeed, the word is often used in parallel to 'harvest', for example, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended" (Jeremiah 8:20). In the Gezer Calendar (10th century BCE), a 'month of summer' (ירח קץ) is mentioned, likely meaning 'the month of gathering'. According to one explanation, this is the month of gathering figs, similar to other months on the calendar that are linked to agricultural activities, like 'the month of harvest'.

The term 'summer' in the sense of 'summer fruits' is also mentioned in the famous prophecy of Amos: "Thus hath the Lord GOD shown unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit..." (Amos 8:1-2). The "basket of summer" is a basket of summer fruits, some say figs. Researchers speculate that the prophet pronounced the word with a northern Israeli accent of his time – קֵץ, as can be inferred from the pronunciation of words in this form in the northern region of Israel during his time: wine (יין -> יֵן), olive (זית -> זֵת), and the like.

From the Hebrew word for summer (קַיִץ), the term "kayetz" was formed in Rabbinical language, likely meaning a fruit or fig gatherer, and in modern Hebrew, the plant "kayetset" that blooms in the summer (known mainly as the prickly plant) was named.

Other new words related to summer were actually derived from the Aramaic equivalent 'קַיִט' or 'קייטא'. 'קיץ' and 'קיט' are variations of the same word: The -tz in the Hebrew word and the -t in the Aramaic word evolved from the same ancient sound (a sound preserved in Arabic: ﻅ), like in the pair of words 'fingernail' in Hebrew and 'nails' in Aramaic.

In the early 20th century, 'קַיִט' gave birth to the words 'קַיְטָנָה' (a place for summer leisure, summer home), 'קַיְטָנִים' (vacationers), and even 'קַיְטָנוּת': "This summer is full of vacationers who came to enjoy the summer days. All the hotels are full, and many have rented rooms in private homes. Hopefully, over time, the Kaytanot here will develop very nicely, and Tzfat will become a summer home in the full sense of these words" (Dar Hayom, 14th of Elul Tarfaha, 1925). Today, a Kaytana is a framework for children on vacation days - and not only during the summer vacation. The word 'קיט' itself has taken on the meaning of leisure and summer vacation in modern Hebrew, for example in the phrase 'עיר קיט'.

And there you have it, folks! From the heady days of harvesting figs to modern summer camps, the word 'קייטנה' has taken quite a journey. But whether it's filled with giggles and sunscreen or ancient fruit-bearing tales, one thing's for certain - 'קייטנה' packs a punch way beyond the summer season. So next time you drop your kiddos off for a day of fun, remember you're partaking in a tradition that's been cooler than a falafel in a pita for centuries. Happy Kaytana, everyone! Shalom and stay sassy!

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