The Israeli Holiday of Love: Tu B’Av (Hag HaAhava)

by Gideon

The Israeli holiday of love (Hag HaAhava) is celebrated on Tu B’Av (the fifteenth of the month Av). Tu is 15, the numeric equivalent of the Hebrew letters tet (9) and vav (6) . Av is the fifth month in the Jewish calendar.

Some have called it “a Jewish Valentine’s Day,” but the history and customs of the two days are very different. It is a popular day for weddings, but it celebrates love in its broadest sense: unity and continuity among the Jewish people and not the love between two individuals.

According to the Mishna, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest. Yom Kippur marked the end of the grape harvest. On both dates, the unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white garments, which they borrowed, and went out to dance in the vineyards (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ta’anit 30b-31a). That same section in the Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.

Tu B’Av, the 15th Day of Av, is both an ancient and modern holiday. Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.).  Tu B’Av falls just six days after mournfully recalling that on Tisha (or ninth) B’av, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, as well as numerous other Jewish catastrophes having occurred. Today, Tu B’Av marks an informal “high” to counter the “low” of  the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av.

In Israel, Tu b’Av is a day of love. It has no formal legal status as a holiday. While it is a regular workday, music and dance festivals are typically held to celebrate the day. It is observed by all segments of Israeli society, whether they consider themselves religious or non-religious.

Tu B’av often mimics Valentine’s Day. Israeli magazines promote romantic getaways and Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones.

In recent decades Israeli civil culture promotes festivals of singing and dancing on the night of Tu B’Av. As the day falls in the summer, it is ideal for outdoor events. Tu B’Av has become popular for open-air evening concerts and even all-day festivals. The entertainment and beauty industries work overtime on this date.

Israelis did not celebrate this great holiday until recently. However, in recent years the day has evolved into a favorite Jewish Israeli wedding date; so popular, that to get married on this day, couples must make their wedding arrangements months, if not years, in advance.

 

Dates of upcoming Tu B’av holidays:

  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5776)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5777)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5778)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5779)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5780)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5781)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5782)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5783)
  • at sundown (15th of Av, 5784)

 

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Charleston in Tel Aviv Yafo – Dizengoff Square – celebrating Tu B’Av

 

 

 

 

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