Mixing Zionism with finding romance

JDate.com's first singles tour of Israel brought Jews from all over the globe.

Jdate 298 88 (photo credit: courtesy)
Jdate 298 88
(photo credit: courtesy)
While some people come to Israel to fall in love with the land, others hope to find a partner in the dense sea of Jews. JDate.com's first singles tour of Israel brought Jews from all over the globe, ranging in age from their 20s to their late 60s, this week. The eight-day trip enabled members to experience Israel while providing a setting for singles to engage with each other. "We tried to facilitate romantic encounters with sunset kayak trips and a disco boat in the Galilee," said Hilla Shprung, assistant general council for Spark Network, JDate's owners. A Yom Ha'atzmaut party attended by Israeli JDate members kicked off the tour in Tel Aviv. About three-fourths of the 130 participants were American, while the others hailed from countries such as Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, Argentina and Canada. While many people on the trip were interested in touring the country, the hope of finding love was also compelling. Susan Schoen, 54, decided to join the trip because she wanted to travel to Israel and also meet other singles. "It sounded like a great opportunity to see a great tour of Israel and possibly meet someone," said the New Jersey resident. Life coach Dina Pinner said people hope to form relationships while on vacation in Israel because many people hold romantic illusions of the country. "In the Diaspora, Israel is sometimes thought of as a place of hopes and dreams. Somehow Jews in the Diaspora have linked those hopes and dreams with love," said Pinner. Pinner said American education about Israel shows an idealistic picture of the country. "They educate about Israel being a fantastic place," Pinner said. "It's not critical education. It's an idealized place with all Jews." Sherry Zimmerman, a dating coach and author, agreed that many people might think it is easier to find a partner in Israel, but that such ideas could lead to disappointment. "It's just as hard to find the right person in a sea of Jews as it is in a populace abroad. You have to find the person right for you," she told The Jerusalem Post. Although many Jews want to fall in love with an Israeli, many people have an easier time finding love in their own country or with someone of their own nationality because of cultural factors. Strong Zionist feelings can cause people to idealize relationships with Israelis, Zimmerman explained, causing them to connect those feelings to falling in love with an Israeli. Pinner also said people might lower their standards when coming to Israel because they are desperate to find love in a country full of Jews. "I suspect many times people come here looking for someone - anyone," she explained. But if they stayed home they might be more discerning, and the need to be with someone would be less compelling. Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and vice president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, said although many young Jews find love in Israel, he thinks it is because of biblical and not Zionist reasons. The Torah depicts the love between God and the Jewish people, while Psalms celebrate the Jews' love of Zion and for each other. "In a place so saturated with love on a cosmic scale, how could one not fall in love?" He said he believes people find love when their heart is open to it, and people are more likely to open their hearts in Jerusalem, and recognize when they have found a soul mate. A 32-year-old New Yorker on the JDate tour acknowledged that falling in love in Israel could be an especially emotional experience. Although she did not join the trip specifically to meet someone, she said she realized she might have more in common with someone on the trip, and she wanted to tour Israel with other people her age. "If you fall in love with Israel and also meet someone, it enhances the experience," said Dana, a management consultant. "If I had met someone here and [we] experienced Israel together, it would have heightened the whole meaning of both experiences." Another issue singles have to deal with, Zimmerman said, was making the relationships work back in their country of origin. "People have to bear in mind when they come for a short period of time and meet singles, they are in an artificial environment," she said. Romances form during vacations or programs in Israel, but it is difficult to develop the relationship beyond Israel. "Because the relationship is overly romanticized, when you get back to reality you realize the person may not be right for you," Zimmerman said. Mark Sivek, 52, said he was willing to attempt to make romance work internationally after being touched spiritually and romantically in Israel. Sivek, a Las Vegas resident, met a woman from Rio de Janeiro while on the JDate trip. He came on the trip with an open mind, but assumed the chances of falling in love with another Jew were mu ch greater than in Vegas. For him, the idea worked. "I had a wonderful time in a wonderful country with a wonderful woman," he said. "It's a beautiful start to a relationship." Both Zimmerman and Pinner agreed that arriving in Israel with hopes of finding love can be dangerous. "Unequivocally it can set people up for disappointment," Pinner said. Zimmerman said that finding love should only be a bonus of a trip to Israel, and not an expectation. "The primary goal is to fall in love with Israel and experience life here."