February 20, 2014

Day of Love

Last Friday was February 14. When I was in Toronto a few weeks ago, the store windows were filled with hearts. Red was the theme in shop windows and on classroom walls. Greeting cards were a hot commodity.

Back in Israel, Valentine’s Day is not so hot. At least I did not see too much commercialism surrounding this holiday where I live.  But I did see a sweet sign in front of a florist’s shop that read “Day of Love.” Yom H’Ahava. Yes, people were running around with bouquets in their arms, but this actually happens every Friday here; traditionally, husbands and children bring flowers home to their wives and moms for Shabbat.

And then I read this study.

In honor of Valentine's Day, Twitter revealed that in 2013, "I love you" was tweeted in Israel more than in any other country in 2013. According to this social media site, Israelis expressed their love on Twitter more than any other country in the world.

Here are the stats. In 2013, more than 481 million Tweets said “I love you.” It was tweeted in 116 languages and tiny Israel ranked number one.

After Israel’s profusely affectionate tweetings, here are the top nine countries: Sweden, Norway, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Where did the United States, home of the most Valentine’s Day cards fall? The United States ranked 26th.

I thought about this study and soon realized that Israel actually celebrates Valentine’s Day every day. We do not need a ‘holiday’ to express our love because there are reasons to feel this here each day.

Case in point. On Tuesday, we went to a ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the graduation of the new paratroopers. These soldiers had just trekked 180 kilometers over the last twelve days, covering a distance equivalent to walking from Tel Aviv to Rosh Hanikra (which is close to the Lebanese border). They walked day and night. They ate little and slept less. Many carried heavy loads on their backs and shared the burden.

The very last night, they started the last phase of their journey, walking from evening to morning, assisting those in pain and encouraging each other. And when dawn broke, they ran the last three kilometers uphill, completing 50 uninterrupted kilometers in one night.

We were there to support them and celebrate with them the same day. The young soldiers stood proudly on stage in formation, ready to receive their ‘kumta,’ the red beret worn by paratroopers. The outdoor seats were all filled. Parents and siblings perched on stairs and sat on the grass beside baskets filled with food. (How can any upstanding Jewish family celebrate without a feast?)

Banners and Israeli flags flapped in the warm breeze. Wrinkled Ethiopian grandmothers wrapped in colorful long dresses shuffled while Russians in tight jeans perched atop high heels. Yemenite women belted out their sons’ names and a professional army trio sang sweet songs.

There was so much love in the air as each boy received his new kumta from his commander. Tears rolled down cheeks of proud parents and friends of these brave, strong boys who had endured and accomplished so much with dignity.

And there was love in the air recently at another tekes (ceremony) when a young man became an officer in the navy. It was such a special occasion, he decided to bring along a velvet box that held a diamond ring. And here, in front of his army friends, that he asked his girlfriend to marry him. Read about the IDF wedding proposal here.

Yes, love is in the air here everywhere and everyday. Here in Israel we are not afraid to express our love and we often cry tears of joy. We tweet and we hug, we dance, sing and shout in triumph and we jump in victory. We simply love to be who we are b’ahava.

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