Love is in the air

If we see a population boom in Jerusalem by this time next year, we’ll know that the ruse bore fruit.

Ein Prat Jewish studies academy. (photo credit: REGEV BEN-DAVID)
Ein Prat Jewish studies academy.
(photo credit: REGEV BEN-DAVID)
If you are young, single and tend towards the modern Orthodox end of the socioethnic scale, then you should get yourself over to Jerusalem Park on July 30 for a generous dose of love for the Hebrew calendar Valentine’s Day, Tu Be’Av.
Shaikeh El Ami, director of the Ginot Ha’ir Community Council that is behind the Ahava Yerushalmit Bateva (Jerusalem Love in Nature) venture, says there is nothing new in expressing positive amorous vibes.
“We are in favor of tradition and in favor of love in Jerusalem,” he says. “We are in favor of the ancient tradition of what Jews did on Tu Be’Av at the time of the Second Temple. The tradition was for people to get together and dance. You could say this is not a new venture, it is a renewing venture.”
Whether innovative or not, producer Avner Shaki has lined up a varied program for the occasion, which will take place as part of the Night of Love – Two Be’Av agenda and cater to a wide range of entertainment tastes, intellectual interests and emotional needs. Admission is free.
The star turn will be provided by popular rocker Dudu Tasa, and Shaki promises an evening/night of fun, intellectual stimulation and letting one’s hair down. The lineup includes such footloose and fancy-free features as a headphone party and beer and sing-alongs, as well as moonlit movie screenings of material put out by the Ma’aleh Film School in Musrara.
There will also be a number of discussion groups in Hebrew, which will enjoy the seasoned and no doubt highly energized input of media star Jackie Levy. The topic spectrum, which is remarkably eclectic, includes seemingly unfettered slots that focus on intimacy and sexuality. It seems like a surprising element of the Tu Be’Av event, which presumably needed a light hand on the artistic direction tiller.
“When we were putting the program together, in addition to the conventional stuff, we thought it would be a good idea to include – in a suitable and not too extrovert manner – something that we considered correct for the event,” explains Shaki. “That included sexuality, love, physical contact and other elements.”
The producer is aware that the aforementioned topics are not what some people might expect to find at such a gathering, titular inference notwithstanding.
“I know that there are people who think such things should be kept hidden behind closed doors and that it is forbidden to talk about them, but we think that we do need to discuss such things and to explain what it is all about,” he says.
The sensitive subject matter, says Shaki, will be handled with consummate delicacy.
“There won’t be any jokes about this. It will be addressed in a professional and respectable manner. We believe these topics should be brought out into the open because they are part of life, an important part,” he explains.
Ahava Yerushalmit Bateva, which will take place in the park at a venue near the Biblical Zoo – signposts will be placed at strategic points in the vicinity – is primarily aimed at young modern Orthodox adults aged 23 and over. El Ami owns up to harboring something of an ulterior motive for holding the event.
“It will be a good opportunity for young religious people to get together, just like they did in the time of the Second Temple. You never know, maybe we’ll end up with some new couples by the end of the evening,” he says.
There is, it seems, nothing particularly groundbreaking on that score, either.
“The original Tu Be’Av activities were very much oriented towards matchmaking,” says El Ami. “We’ll see what happens.”
If we see a population boom in Jerusalem by this time next year, we’ll know that the ruse bore fruit.
El Ami would also very much like the Two Be’Av slot, as well as other cultural happenings, to encourage young religious Jerusalemites to remain in the capital.
“It is well known that the majority of people leaving Jerusalem are young religious,” he says.
“They run into the problem of finding suitable affordable housing and have to look elsewhere,” he says.
But it is not all doom and gloom, and El Ami hopes events like the Jerusalem Park bash will serve to fuel a more positive vibe.
“Things are improving in Jerusalem,” he declares. “There is a lot more for young people to do in Jerusalem, and the whole feel of the city is getter better.”
Shaki certainly goes along with that, and he welcomes the opportunity for young religious Jerusalemites of both genders to mingle in a relaxed and interesting atmosphere.
“It is a problem for religious men and women to get together. You find religious people aged over 30 who are single. There is no infrastructure to help them socialize with members of the other sex. I hope this will help,” he says.
For his part, El Ami is enthused about Ahava Yerushalmit Bateva and says he is looking forward to a fun but appropriate event.
“It won’t be a street party, and there won’t be any wild behavior. This a well-planned program, which I hope will have a good knock-on effect,” he says.
In addition to Tasa and Levy, the lineup includes some of the country’s leading players in the religious-secular sector, such as the Yahel Center, which addresses the main topics in the Tu Be’Av schedule, and the Jerusalem branch of the Ein Prat Jewish studies academy.
“Pluralism is an important part of Ahava Yerushalmit Bateva, and I think all kinds of people will find their place there,” says El Ami, noting that secular youngsters are welcome, too.
“We won’t turn people away because they are officially not religious. I think everyone can enjoy the event and learn a lot from it, too,” he says. • The event kicks off at 8:30 p.m. at Jerusalem Park.
For more information: yerushalmit (in Hebrew).