I know, I know, the ‘real’ Israeli Valentine’s Day is Tu B’Av, over in August, but there’s a good amount of Valentine’s Day reminders out there, from the tinseled red hearts nestled in bouquets at the local florist to the long list of Valentine’s Day dinner specials and events for two, being advertised around town.

So here’s what I’m suggesting: Instead of making it another day to celebrate romantic love and relationships, let’s try a different tack and use February 14 as a day for doing something you love, preferably with someone you love, whether friend, partner or family member.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Doing the things that make you happy, with those who feel the same?

This week, five things that may make you happy, or, even better, make someone else happy as well.

1) Clothing company Castro is aiming to please the general public with its latest ad campaign, featuring four top male Israeli swimmers in their undies. The swimmers, champions all, modeled Castro’s briefs poolside as part of their effort to raise awareness of Israeli swimming as a competitive sport. Luckily, with their six-pack abs and chests, they seem to have found the right solution for gaining some attention.

Gal Nevo, Yakov Toumarkin, Etay Gurevich and Guy Barnea modeling their new Castro briefs (Courtesy Castro)

Gal Nevo, Yakov Toumarkin, Etay Gurevich and Guy Barnea modeling their new Castro briefs (Courtesy Castro)

The models are Guy Barnea, who participated in the 2008 Olympics and currently attends UC Berkeley; Gal Nevo, who swam for Israel in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics; Yakov Toumarkin, a younger teammate who also was at the 2012 Olympics, and Etay Gurevich, the youngest of the bunch, and hopes to participate in the next summer Olympics. It isn’t the first time that an Olympic team modeled underwear; the French Olympic swimming team swapped out their Speedos for HOM underwear in 2008. That said, the four swimmers told Guy Pines that “they’re doing it for their love of the sport.”

2) Know someone who loves flamenco music? Actually, it may not matter. Flamenco singer Yael Horowitz brings some fiery passion and sultry tones to her music, a meld of traditional Spanish song with more local, Sephardic sounds. Her single, Hasta El Final, has the feel of world music, as Horowitz blends the music of Andalusia with contemporary Israeli rhythms. Check out her video, which features two local flamenco dancers, Natalie Sharon Sagi and Dvir Final. And if you want to see Horowitz in person, she’s performing Wednesday, February 26 at Beit Hayotzer, Tel Aviv, 8:30 pm, NIS 50/60 per ticket and on Thursday, February 27, at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine, 9 pm, NIS 50/60 tickets.

Skip the layers and just make red velvet cupcakes instead (Photo credit: luciama/CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Skip the layers and just make red velvet cupcakes instead (Photo credit: luciama/CC-BY-SA-3.0)

3) Spend some time in the kitchen and make a traditional, Valentine’s Day red velvet cake for some people you love, that sentimental confection of deep red cake layers surrounded by rich, fluffy white frosting. According to food historian Gil Marks, who says the cake has become the Valentine’s Day standard, it has a subtle chocolate flavor with a bright red hue produced by a considerable amount of red food coloring (1/4 cup worth). Marks reports that the first record of the red velvet cake was back in 1959, but the cake’s popularity waned in the 1970s when the FDA delisted red dye. And no, writes Marks, beet juice cannot be substituted for red dye, because the tone won’t be as intensive. The proper red velvet cake is “moist and soft, with a slight tang, and not overly sweet,” he said. Read here for Marks’ easy-to-follow instructions for Red Velvet Cake.

Chocolatier Ora Shavit will be at the Chocolate Festival to demonstrate how to make your own chocolate spread (Courtesy Chocolate Festival)

Chocolatier Ora Shavit will be at the Chocolate Festival to demonstrate how to make your own chocolate spread (Courtesy Chocolate Festival)

4) For the chocolate lovers, Thursday marks the start of the Chocolate Festival at Tel Aviv’s Train Station complex. From Thursday afternoon through Saturday, 20 chocolatiers, pastry chefs and cocoa experts will demonstrate how to make all kinds of chocolate confections, from sophisticated pralines, souffles and truffles to vegan Krembos and kid-oriented decorations and treats. There will also be an exhibit of chocolate sculptures, chocolate spa treatments and activities for kids. Tel Aviv Train Station complex, Thursday, February 13 (4-10 pm), Friday, February 14 (9-4) through Saturday, February 15 (9-9). NIS 15 entry fee, kids can enter for free.

5) If none of the above appeal, a few more options for showing some love: The Batsheva Dance Company is offering special prices on tickets, at NIS 239 for two (rather than the usual NIS 150 per ticket), usable for performances from March through June. Call 03-517-1471, extension 115 to order tickets. Love nature? Head north next Shabbat, February 22, to commune with the trees, anemones and spring flowers. Hosted by the Southern Jordan River Authority, the walking trail is an easy one suitable for all ages, and will be followed by games and activities, including learning how to gather edible plants, making flutes, basket weaving, a petting zoo and farmer’s market. Kibbutz Beit Hashita, Saturday, February 22, 9-1, check the website for more information, or call
04-653-2854.