Do Israelis celebrate Valentine’s Day?
It’s a question I’m asked from time to time, by both family in the U.S. and friends in Israel. Given that New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated (despite our already having a Jewish equivalent – Rosh Hashana) and Anglos often do something on the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, why should Valentine’s Day be any different? It’s not an overtly religious holiday like Christmas or Easter.
My wife and I have never commemorated the day, but that’s before we had a 17-year-old hopeless romantic daughter. “You’re getting Imma flowers or chocolates, right?” she demanded. “Um, no, I wasn’t planning to,” I responded. “It’s not our holiday in Israel.”
“Do celebrate Tu B’av?” she then asked. Tu B’av, the 15th day of the month of Av, is the Jewish calendar’s official “day of love.” It takes place in the summer and traditionally was a time when, according to the Talmud, “the unmarried girls of Jerusalem would dress in white garments and go out to dance in the vineyards.” These days, it’s a propitious day to get married.
“No, we don’t celebrate Tu B’av either,” I said to my teenager. To which she replied simply “Nu” – essentially “what are you waiting for?” – and gave me a withering look.
And that’s how, despite my Zionist protestations, I walked over to nearby Emek Refaim Street today and bought my wife a bouquet of red and white roses. I attached a note that read “even though I know we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, you deserve something special.”
That’s something you can do on any day of the year.