Kyoto. Rio. Barcelona. They’re all popular tourist destinations for Israelis – and some have even decided to call these cities home.Now, three Israeli men living in those cities are appearing in a new reality TV dating show, and hoping to find an Israeli wife.
The show, on Keshet 12, is called How Far, and that’s exactly what it’s asking its slate of female contestants: how far would you go for love?
The show began airing last week, and each of its first three episodes introduced a new man. Yonatan Ronen, originally from Kibbutz Ginosar, now lives in Barcelona, where he is the CEO of a cosmetics company. Itay Makover, a native of Jerusalem, lives in Kyoto and is a real estate entrepreneur. And Tzion Fadlon, who grew up in Tel Aviv, lives in Rio de Janeiro, where he owns a boutique hotel and a bar.
For the purposes of the show, the three men return to Israel for a night of speed dating with a wide range of women, with one goal in mind. They must each pick four women and invite them to fly out to their home city and get to know them better. One of them, the show – and the men – are hoping, could become their wife.
Israel is no stranger to reality dating shows, from classy to trashy. And while many Israeli shows – like Married at First Sight, Dating in the Dark and The Bachelor – are remakes of international shows, How Far is brand new. This makes sense, since at the heart of the show is the idea that even Israelis who have settled down in far-flung places want to marry an Israeli at the end of the day. And the undeniable unspoken message is that these men want to marry Jewish women.
In the first three episodes, religion is only touched on once, by one of the women, but the underlying concept is still present. After all, none of the women are Arab, and several weren’t born in Israel. So what is Israeli, really?
As is the norm with most reality dating shows, the entire enterprise is imbued with sexist messaging.
It begins with the concept itself – how far would women go for love? Well, as the show repeats over and over again, they’re not just going far for any man. No, these three men are “successful,” i.e. rich. And it’s the women who are meant to drop everything they have – their careers, their families and their friends – to fly halfway around the world, while the men stay put in their lives.
The men are also all in their 30s – Ronen and Makover are both 38 and Fadlon is 33 – while the women tend to be much younger; one potential contestant was 21. Several of the finalists are more than a decade younger than their ostensible suitor, though one out of the 12 is older than her love interest.
The show is clearly inspired in part by the US Bachelor, with dates reminiscent of the elaborate setups that show is known for – including hot air balloon rides, horseback riding and romantic picnics. While the production value is fairly high for an Israeli series, there are some amusing moments that showcase the difference between How Far and its slick American counterparts – like when the women complain about their bedrooms not having air conditioning.
So are all 12 women willing to leave their lives behind for the sake of love? Yes and no. Two of the men – Makover and Fadlon – admitted that the move would be temporary, as they want to raise their children in Israel. Ronen, who lives in Barcelona, is a different story entirely. Unlikely the other two men, Ronen is a widower. He was with his Spanish wife for 14 years, until she died following a long battle with cancer just over a year before the show began filming. He has a young daughter, Laya. Ronen has implied that he intends to stay in Barcelona, for his business and his family, for the foreseeable future. Ronen has also already chosen a wife – and not an Israeli one – in the past. But he states repeatedly that he wants his daughter, Laya, to be Israeli and not Catalan.
Keshet’s most recent reality dating series, Married at First Sight, closed its first season earlier this year, and shortly afterward it was clear that not a single couple from the show remained together. Will How Far follow in its path?