While Valentine's Day is definitely not a Jewish holiday, it has eagerly been embraced by Israelis - perhaps because it's yet another reason to celebrate. Or maybe it's because shopkeepers will go for anything that can boost their sales. Then again, it may simply be a cry for love. Sometimes people in Israel describe Valentine's Day as the equivalent to Tu Be'av, which is the traditional Jewish day of courting. In Temple times, unmarried young women would dress in white on Tu Be'av and Yom Kippur and go dancing through the vineyards in hopes of meeting their matches. But the origins of Valentine's Day are shrouded in mystery. It was once a Catholic holiday, commemorating a martyr by the name of St. Valentine who died on February 14. There were quite a number Catholic martyrs who were called Valentine, so it is unclear which Valentine it was. The most popular theory is that it was a Valentine executed in Roman times. One version has it that Emperor Claudius believed men were less likely to join the army if they had to leave their wives behind, so he outlawed marriage. When it was discovered that a certain Valentine was secretly performing weddings, he was arrested and sentenced to decapitation. Apparently the jailer's daughter caught his eye and he sent her a series of love letters while awaiting his execution. The last letter was supposedly signed: "Your Valentine." Another version states that he was executed for refusing to give up his Christian beliefs. Some people think that Valentine's Day is a Roman rather than a Catholic festival and attribute its origins to the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15. This was more a festival of lust than of love; women were part of a lottery draw in which they were the prizes, namely the sexual companions of whichever man had landed them in the draw. Chaucer and Shakespeare each made references to Valentine, and various "true love" customs related to Valentine's Day sprang up in Europe and spread to other parts of the world. The commercial aspect began with the advent of greeting cards. Instead of penning their own love letters, people selected from a range of cards filled with romantic sentiments and appropriately illustrated with hearts, lovebirds and red roses. From greeting cards, which became increasingly ornate and expensive, the commercialization of Valentine's Day brought heart-shaped boxes of candy and bouquets of long-stemmed red roses. But then marketing experts led people to believe they should send more than that - from something modest like a heart-shaped cookie to something luxurious like a heart-shaped pink diamond ring or a fancy car tied with pink ribbon. This year's invitation to the JCS Capital Studios' annual Valentine's Day Party came by e-mail and showed a pink envelope, which, when clicked on, opened up to reveal the invitation and played erotic music. Many lingerie stores are holding Valentine's Day sales featuring the sheerest of lace underwear and baby-doll lingerie. The Roladin pastry chain produced small heart-shaped cakes for him and her, while jewelry stores came out with heart-shaped rings and pendants as well as charm bracelets with dangling hearts. Stores specializing in household gifts featured rose-patterned tea and coffee sets, while cosmetics companies came out with rose and heart-print packaging. Florists, of course, will have a field day, and restaurants will do well offering romantic dinners. Somehow, an enormous range of products and services that are available all year round have been made more alluring on February 14. To those who are celebrating love - enjoy it while you can!