Visiting Israel: A Jdater's Diaries

Part One: Hummus and Happiness

Road signs in Israel for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

I didn’t expect how the trip would affect my view of the world

I’m not what you might call a “good traveler.” Some people are comfortable jet setting all over the world, eager to break their routines and tackle whatever associated misadventures may come their way. I am not one of these people. So when I boarded a plane for a 12-hour flight two weeks ago to sit in a claustrophobic flying tunnel full of coughing strangers and suspicious food served at weird times, it was no surprise to me that my initial excitement gradually gave way to exhaustion and annoyance.

However, my plane was headed to Israel, a place my post-Birthright-eligible self had never visited. So in some ways, my journey around the world brought me to my homeland. In other ways, it brought me to a land of stray cats that smelled vaguely of za’atar spices. But more on that later.

I spent the past 10 days traveling across Israel with 26 other adults from the St. Louis area on a community tour organized by my synagogue. We saw all the usual tourist spots: Masada, the Dead Sea, the Old City and Western Wall, Ben Yehuda Street, Safed, Golan Heights, Tel Aviv, etc. We ate huge breakfasts along with lots of falafel, eggplant, pita and hummus. We bought tchotchkes and fell asleep on bus rides and talked to locals. These activities were all enjoyable, educational and somewhat anticipated before the trip.

What I didn’t expect was how the trip affected my view of the world; suddenly, what was previously a foreign country on the other side of the globe felt like a familiar place full of happy, thriving human beings who were just like me. We joke about Jewish geography all the time, but I can now play the game worldwide. People on our trip ran into other people they knew in Israel as though they had bumped into them at the grocery store down the block. Everyone on our trip knew a friend or relative who had made Aliyah. Strangers shouted “shalom” and thanked us for visiting during a tumultuous time. We engaged in a lively sing-along of familiar Hebrew songs with a group of Jewish French tourists at our hotel during Shabbat dinner, just hours before their home country was to become ground zero for a terrorist attack.

Part Two: Love and Lobbies

I couldn’t help but do a little sleuthing into the Israeli dating culture

All of these experiences made me aware of the world’s smallness, and these are the types of realizations I couldn’t necessarily expect, read about or adequately feel from a Disney World ride with an annoying song. I had to feel it myself by visiting a different place. The more I think about this, the more I realize we are all just humans trying to get along in the world. And this feeling is especially potent in light of heightened terrorist attacks and threats around the globe.

While I had no initial intention of checking out men and the Israel dating scene while abroad, I couldn’t help but do a little sleuthing into the Israeli dating culture. So, there I was, using the free Wi-Fi on the long bus rides, Tindering and JDating – all in the name of journalistic research, of course. (Blogging is a tough gig!) What I found in the very short time that I was actively swiping is quite interesting and possibly indicative of the culture as a whole:

  • Mega Matches: First, there are more overall matches. Duh, it’s Israel – more Jews. But also, instead of guessing who might be Jewish based on looks or common friends, there is a huge chance that a random Tinder match actually is a member of the tribe. Cool.
  • Every Kind Of Jew: Because of the numerous options, it’s easy to meet lots of different people, even if it is only for a date or two. I was taken aback by the diversity of fellow Jews that we encountered; if you’re searching for a blue-eyed, dark-skinned partner who keeps kosher in the home but isn’t shomer Shabbos and knows three languages and how to shoot a gun, for example, you might have your pick of several options!
  • Fast First Moves: It appears that men in Israel are more forward. This could be anecdotal or just remnants of a stereotype, but guys tended to be more likely to make the first online move and more quickly, too. This might also be a result of “new-in-town syndrome” – you know, when you’re in a new place and guys discover that a new person is in town, so they flock to you like droves of vultures with high hopes. Then they meet you and run away. Or maybe that’s just me.
  • Looking For Forever: The general dating vibe in Israel is a little more serious. People there typically want to get married. Again, totally anecdotal; however, according to an article in Haaretz, young adults tend to generally date one person at a time in Israel, as opposed to juggling multiples or keeping second choices on the back burner. They may only see someone for one date, but many people prefer to give full attention to just one prospect at a time, reinforcing the more serious nature of Israeli dating.

Another observation: Our hotel lobby played host to several presumed first dates during our relatively short stay. Apparently, the “Hotel Lobby Date” is a thing in Israel (and in New York, from what I’ve heard); I’m surprised someone hasn’t yet made a reality show about the real lobbies of Jerusalem or something.

In conclusion, my analysis shows that conditions are ripe in Israel for finding nice Jewish partners. Just ask my second cousin who moved to Tel Aviv a few years ago – we reconnected with her on the trip and also met her adorable Israeli boyfriend! I bet he has some cute friends for those interested in making Aliyah.

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