Tu Be'av: Finding love in a virtual world

This Tu Be'av, the 'Post' takes a look at the weird and wonderful world of dating apps in Israel.

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August 6, 2017 12:40
online dating

online dating. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Swipe left. Swipe right. Take a screenshot and send it to your mother.

In the world of 21st century dating, more and more couples are meeting via dating apps – sidelining traditional matchmakers (or “meet cutes”) and taking to the World Wide Web.

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From Tinder to JSwipe, OKCupid and Bumble, singles increasingly look to applications on their phones to sort through the available men and women, swiping left for no and right for yes based on a few photos and a handful of identifying details.

Around the globe, dating apps are a world of strange matches and weird conversations. The Jewish state is no different. And, like all aspects of life in the Jewish state, some experiences are decidedly “Only in Israel.”

Tu Be’av, or the fifteenth of the month Av, is often referred to as the Jewish Valentine’s Day. The minor holiday began Sunday night and ends Monday night, so I asked singles around the country to share their funny, disturbing, upsetting and even heartwarming stories.

On dating apps, it’s all about the photos. And in Israel, there are a few things you notice right off the bat. Profile photos, particularly of men, are routinely dotted with army uniforms – whether from mandatory service or reserves.

But some men take it even a step further: Like posing for a photo inside a Hamas tunnel; writing a letter in a Sefer Torah; or wearing a tallit and tefillin while aiming a handgun at an unidentified threat off-camera.

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Then there’s the guy who posted an image of the Lubavitcher rebbe as his profile photo. Or the love-seeker who used an image of IDF soldier Elor Azaria, emblazoned with the message: “Thanks for killing the terrorist!”

For others, it’s about the location of the photo. People have shown me more dating app screenshots of Temple Mount selfies than I thought possible. I was particularly taken aback by a man who opted for a photo of himself in Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names.

Sometimes it’s more about the company you keep. Singles around the country have come across dating photos featuring Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, US President Donald Trump, and even an image featuring Ron Dermer and former US president Barack Obama.

Of course, it’s one thing to simply swipe through the plethora of Israeli singles, but it’s quite another to strike up conversations and go out with men and women through dating apps.

While The Jerusalem Post spoke to singles about their dating app usage, most agreed to share their stories on condition of anonymity. To that end, those quoted are identified by just their first names or their initials.

Sarah, who lives in Jerusalem, said she sees so many strange and funny things that she’s taken to screen-shotting them and sending them to her friends – who do the same. From nudity to questionable costumes and strange looks, she said it often “feels more like a game than serious dating.”

Most of the dating apps work based on proximity, matching you up with eligible singles who are located nearby. In Israel, with its small size and many borders, things can get interesting.

When Laura was in the army, she was stationed in the Golan. Mostly to pass the time, she and her friends would swipe through eligible matches on Tinder. What they’d encounter – with surprising regularity – were Syrian fighters.

“We often got Syrians,” she said. “Some of them we think were rebels based on their pics.” But they never swiped right to see if they could match and strike up a cross-border conversation. “We were a little terrified of it at first,” she said. “Though we did find it hilarious.”

Of the many apps available, JSwipe was created for Jews around the world to find love. The J, after all, stands for Jewish. But the app doesn’t actively filter anyone out while signing up.

Michal, from Jerusalem, was taken aback to see so many Arabs when she swiped through JSwipe’s eligible bachelors.

They “tend to register for JSwipe as ‘Orthodox,’” she said, “and then post pics with their kids.” While she said it was jarring at first, it definitely made her realize that “often Beit Safafa was as close to my house as Nahlaot... It’s like a cognitive dissonance that is broken by the hard facts of GPS.”

In many ways Israel is a very small country – and the singles pool can make it feel even smaller. Users have reported coming across coworkers, professors, landlords, family members and of course exes while using dating apps.

Stacey, who lives in Tel Aviv, realized recently just what a small world it is. While looking through OKCupid, she came across a guy whose photo made her laugh. He was in an IDF uniform, photographed grinning in front of an Arabic mural, complete with a rifle and Palestinian flag. She swiped right because, she figured, why not. The very next day, Stacey had a meeting with her pension plan manager... who, you guessed it, turned out to be the guy from OKCupid.

Kayla, who lives in the South, was messaging a guy she met online. They moved to speaking on the phone and he asked her out for a first date, which included meeting his entire family. Needless to say, she declined.

And while there is plenty to laugh at when it comes to online dating, there are also some horror stories – in Israel and around the world. From stalking to harassment to sexual assault and rape, Internet dating can be a minefield, and Israel is no different.

Caitlin met a guy online, and went on a couple of decent dates. On the third date, she traveled to his apartment in Beersheba, and was horrified when he forced himself on her, then acted like it was no big deal.

“For a long time I was confused about how to view it,” she said. “I told myself, maybe consent is different in Israel, since men are so much more aggressive and women are expected to say no, even when they mean yes.”

To be clear, any instances of sexual assault or rape are crimes and should be reported to police.

Despite its pitfalls, there are still plenty of happy endings from online dating – enough to keep people trying.

Even after her bad experiences, Caitlin was intrigued by a Harry Potter-themed pick-up line from a guy on OKCupid. And his promise to show her the best beach in Israel (Hadera, it turns out), convinced her to say yes to his date request. Two years later, they’re still very much a couple and planning a life together.

N.C., who lives in Jerusalem, was using the site and app Shlish Gan Eden, which is designed for religious singles. She had a friend who was also using the site at the same time.

“She went out with a guy she met on the app and decided he wasn’t for her,” she said. “But maybe he’d be good for me.”

“So I contacted him... and ended up marrying him.”

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