Every Tu Bishvat for the past 10 years, David, a 30-something Jerusalem bachelor, attends a special prayer service for finding a match organized in Jerusalem by the kabbalist Rabbi David Batzri.

David, who says he spends a lot of time looking for a match on the Internet and organizing Sabbath events for unattached men and women looking for their soul mate, says that because of "the abundance and the Internet, people get confused" and cannot find a match. "People have the illusion that they have endless opportunities and can wait, but the bubble bursts. Then after all the failed efforts and the Sabbaths, we recognize that we can depend only on our Father in Heaven."

According to 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, two days a year a year - Tu Bishvat and Tu B'Av - are the most propitious times for fertility and finding a mate. Rabbi Batzri holds special services on those days that attract hundreds of unattached men and women from all over Israel - as well as worried parents.

Near Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market yesterday, large drops of rain sloshed down on the 20,000 people who had come for the Tu Bishvat carnival organized by the municipality. They watched and listened as a group of elderly women put down their bags of fruit and vegetables and danced to music by a band playing Balkan music, as clowns entertained the crowd.

The merriment stopped at Jaffa Road, on the other side of which - from Batzri's yeshiva - the sound of prayers could be heard. Batzri composed special prayers for the occasion, among them: "Have mercy on me and bring me a beautiful, God-fearing wife of good character, smart and successful and blessed, for by this I can worship God without distraction."

One high point in the service, which went on for seven hours, was when the sexton distributed shofars to the men, who by blowing them believe they can speed up the appearence of their life-partner, as Batzri's son, Rabbi Itzhak Batzri, explains. As the shofars blared, eyes overflowed with tears in the women's section of the synagogue.

The height of the service is when Batzri tosses hard candy at the congregation, with a promise that those who catch it will find a match.

Outside, energetic matchmakers approached unattached men and women, jotting down information.

"In recent years," Rabbi Batzri says, "you see not only older unmarried people, but young ones, too. Today the problem is not only that people don't find, but people are afraid to decide."

Anat, who is "about 30," met her new husband a week after last year's service. She found him on a dating site for the Orthodox, but she believes he was the answer to her prayers. She was there yesterday because "there's always something to pray for."

In answer to the obvious question, why not bring together the unmarried men and women who were congregating on different floors of the building, Batzri said, "People don't come here to meet. You can meet someone at the grocery store. They come here to ask the Holy One, blessed be He, for a match."