To mark Tu Be'av, which falls on Shabbat, the Central Bureau of Statistics has released figures relating to marriages that took place in Israel in 2003.
Tu Be'av (the 15th day of Av) is the traditional date on which, according to the Mishna, unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in borrowed white garments and went out to dance in the vineyards, where they were chosen as wives by unmarried men. Nowadays the day is marked as a "lovers' holiday."
A total of 39,154 couples were married, of whom 29,649 were Jewish and 8,006 were Muslim. Of these, 92 percent were first marriages.
The average age of first marriage has increased over the years and is now 27.2 for Jewish bridegrooms and 24.9 for Jewish brides. Christians marry at a slightly later age, the average being 28.8 for men, whereas Muslims marry on average at 25.6 and Druse at 25.3. The average age at marriage for Christian women is 23.6, and for Druse and Muslim women, 20.4.
Israelis marry earlier than Westerners, partly because of the low percentage of couples who live together without being married. In 2001, the average age at which men married in the EU was 30, compared to 27 in Israel.
Since the 1970s the age of marriage has steadily risen.
In 2004, 145,207 babies were born in Israel. In 2003, the average age of Jewish first-time mothers was 27.2 and for Muslims 23.3.