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"There never were in Israel greater days of joy than Tu Be'av and Yom Kippur," says the Mishna. It records that on these days, maidens dressed in borrowed white garments (so as not to shame the poorer girls) went out to dance in the vineyards, inviting eligible young men to choose among them for brides.
The holiday of Tu Be'av marks the beginning of the grape harvest, while Yom Kippur marks its end - reason enough, apparently, for ancient Israel to designate them, apart from their other religious ramifications, as Jewish Sadie Hawkins days.
During the long and bitter Exile, Tu Be'av was nearly forgotten. But the Jewish Renaissance that brought the State of Israel into being and resurrected the Hebrew language has also dusted off this holiday. Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones on Tu Be'av, and the date is a popular one for weddings. Its growing popularity over the past 15 years has taken on a Valentine's Day kind of ambience, and restaurants dream up special menus in its honor. If you're looking for a biblically warranted romantic evening Tuesday night, here's a round-up to whet your appetite:
Rena Pushkarna welcomes patrons at her Tandoori restaurants with a cocktail on the house and a variety of passionate exotic dishes from her Indian cuisine. Roasted Mekani chicken in a delicate fruit sauce is NIS 49, and a delicious Indian-style banana ice cream is NIS 25.
Tandoori, 2 Zamenhof, Tel Aviv (03) 629-6185; 32 Maskit, Herzliya (09) 954-6702; Laguna Hotel, Eilat (08) 633-3879; Kohinor, (Kosher) Crowne Plaza Jerusalem (02) 658-8867
A collection of Asian-style cocktails, such as Japanese choy nectar and apple cider or ginger choy and passion fruit (NIS 32 each), awaits diners at Okinawa sushi bar in Herzliya and Tel Aviv. A sushi combination for two including two nigiri, six inside-out spicy tuna, four salmon fotomaki, six avocado maki, and six crab maki is offered for NIS 106
Okinawa, 8 Hamanofim Herzliya (09) 951-3030. 46 Shabazi Neve Zedek, Tel Aviv (03) 510-1099 (not kosher)
At Agol tapas bar, a variety of light innovative tapas that perfectly match the hot summer evening of Tu Be'av will be served for NIS 14 each.
Agol, 16 Moshe Beker, Rishon Lezion (03) 950-7085
Barolo bar restaurant will celebrate Tu Be'av with romantic hits of the 1960s - Mike Brandt, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley - sung by Mark Benton. The dining hall will be decorated in red and white, and the owners promise many surprises.
Barolo, 21 Hashaham, Petah Tikva (03) 922-2499
Nothing can beat a bottle of chilled ros wine and a view of the sea to celebrate this romantic holiday. Pier 23 at the Tel Aviv Harbor offers it for NIS 49, and many other cocktails for NIS 23.
Pier 23, Hangar 23, Tel Aviv Harbor (03) 546-9937
Turkish restaurant Tike offers a variety of appetizers, a sumptuous meat platter, dessert and two festive cocktails for NIS 250 per couple.
Tike, 11 Shenkar, Herzliya (09) 972-8191
A cool surprise for the one you love could be a unique gift package offered by Iceberg ice-cream parlor for NIS 69. The package contains a bouquet of red roses; crisp heart-shaped wafers; 500gr. of ice cream in three different flavors, including red roses - vanilla with rose petals and rose water; peach-scented champagne sorbet; and rich Belgian chocolate.
Iceberg. 108 Ben-Yehuda, Tel Aviv (03) 522-5025
Barcarole restaurant offers lovely desserts such as summer fruits in port and Marsala sauce with fingers of cinnamon brioche; or pineapple in vanilla butter and chili, served with coconut sorbet and toffee ginger sauce for NIS 33 each. Unique cocktails for two are not to be missed, as well as champagne cocktail, roses, and red berries and cherry cream for NIS 46
Barcarole. 13 Atir Yeda, Kfar Saba (09) 766-9606
A love fest with a fashion show of celebrity-designed Dana Ashkenazi originals will be celebrated at the Galina Beach Club. Cocktails for lovers, champagne, and a picturesque view of the Tel Aviv sunset.
Galina, Hangar 19, Tel Aviv Harbor (03) 544-5553
Chef Eyal Lavi will dish up passionate dishes for two at Pastis bistro. Seafood paella in white wine sauce or strawberry pavlova in chocolate and brandy are just two of the delights.
Pastis, 73 Sderot Rothschild, Tel Aviv (03) 525-0773
Spa treatments, catamaran sailing, summer cocktails and plenty of superb food are offered during the whole day for patrons of Zidon restaurant, located in a secluded beach in Herzliya.
Zidon, Hasharon beach, Herzliya (09) 950-0926
Not only for wine enthusiasts: Enjoy an evening of live jazz, wine, cheese and lots of love, starting at 8 p.m. in the biblical setting of the Ella Valley Winery in Kibbutz Halamed Heh. Entrance is free.
Ella Valley Winery, Kibbutz Halamed Heh (02) 999-4885
A festive romantic opera evening for Tu Be'av will be celebrated among the vineyards at Karmei Yosef. Guests can enjoy the winery's produce while songs from Cabaret, My Fair Lady, Fame, Les Miserables, West Side Story and many other musicals will be performed by May Israeli and Anat Eini. Admission is NIS 85. Reservations are highly recommended.
Karmei Yosef. For info, call Lisa 0545-555604