This past Monday was Tu B’av, the Jewish holiday of love. A lot of people call it the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day, but personally I hate comparing such a happy day in the Jewish calender to a holiday represented mainly by a baby in diapers shooting arrows at young lovers (why is his mother letting him play with arrows?). I’m also not crazy about comparing the two days because on St. Valentine’s Day in 1349 thousands of Jews were killed in the Strasbourg Pogrom. I can hold a grudge for a long time.
In Biblical and Talmudic times young, single girls would dress in white and go dance in the fields in order to attract potential husbands. A Biblical JDate, so to speak. Today in Israel the holiday has been “Hallmarked” — it’s one of the most popular days to get married, television programming is overflowing with romantic movies and cozy little restaurants make a killing by offering a special Tu B’Av menu, with complimentary champagne.
For the past six years that Ju-Boy and I have been together I have always mentioned something about Tu B’Av. He, the typical British alpha-male, rolls his eyes and mutters, “yeah, yeah, yeah…” But this year… he came home early and in British caveman style, knocked me on the head and dragged me out the door by my hair. In other words, he politely asked me to get in the car for a surprise drive. And drive we did, and drive, and drive, and drive. Two and a half hours later we ended up in Nahariya, a sweet but sad little city on the northern coast, spitting (and rocket) distance from Lebanon.
Why sad? Because Nahariya has so much potential to be a quaint little town. There’s a man-made canal running down the center of town, beautifully gated and promenaded, but all you find in the canal is a puddle or two, and a lot of algae. I realize there’s a water shortage going on, but the canal runs into the ocean, couldn’t the municipality just have the ocean running back up the canal at high tide to give the impression of water? Moreover, the hotels on the main street have become run-down, looking more like the type of establishment that rents rooms by the hour, not the day. The most expensive of these hotels is located right across the street from a well-know sausage and lunchmeat factory. As we drove down the main drag, the smell of salami and mortadela invaded the car. Urgh. Add this to the three (count ’em, three) hansom cabs with bored horses parked right in the middle of the street, and I just felt so sad.
We drove on to the beach, which was incredibly humid, but lovely, and Nahariya’s saving grace.
After walking on the beach, just one couple holding hands amid the families out to cool down and a few other romantic couples who came to watch the Mediterranean sunset, we headed eastward to a moshav called Netiv Hashayara and Arnold’s. A restaurant with a name like Arnold’s conjures up (at least for me) images of Joanie and Chachi sharing a milkshake in a cozy booth while the Fonz polishes his jacket nearby. Not this Arnold’s. Run by French gourmet chef Uri Arnold, this restaurant is one of the perfect places to take your honey for a Tu B’Av meal. Which is exactly what my honey did. The restaurant had scrapped its regular menu in honor of the holiday and was just offering a special Tu B’Av tasting menu for NIS 188 per person (roughly US $50). And special it was…
Dinner over, we waddled back to the car, groaning with both pleasure and overstuffed stomachs. Ju-Boy knows me so well, the way to my heart is through my stomach.