Basia Monka – Dating – a beginning of a romance, fun or a job?
Israel is a small country, but the dating scene is big, as I have already mention on the Israelseen (‘Be eyze keta’). The subject is very vivid here, so I hope you don’t mind me digging on it a little bit more.
Last year I went on the ‘Sheva Brachos’ (literally: seven blessings; in Jewish religious families there is a tradition of seven dinners or parties after the wedding, given by family and friends to celebrate a just married couple). The family was Chasidic, the room was divided in two – men and women on each side of the room. I spoke to the 18 years old bride, who saw the groom only once in her life, a year before the wedding! They talked for two and half hours and they agreed to get married. For Chanukah he sent her the ring, in August they stood under the ‘huppa’… She never went out with anyone else, but she knew he was the one. She was calm telling me that, but her eyes were excited. And actually I trust, she was right.
Once a rabbi told me that in a secular world we start a relationship with a fire and then try to keep emotions on that level, as in orthodox societies, couples begin cool, but later slowly they are heating up the fire. Obviously I am not trying to say, that there is a rule for a happy relationship (they were books written about that) and for sure the level of observance does not guarantee it, but looking at that young girl in Jerusalem, I could see the point the rabbi was making.
Some secular people tend to patronize those set-up religious marriages, saying there are no feelings there. But is the non-religious, or less traditional society, really so different when it comes to dating with the Internet involved nowadays? And are the long working hours really the only reason for meeting partners by Internet? (Some people say they have no time otherwise) Or maybe, in fact, this is longing for tradition and old times (not just in Jewish tradition), when people were meeting three times and deciding, if were meant to be forever? So is it really old or new?
More I observe Tel Aviv, I notice that dates are like a job hunting. And the decisions about the direction of dates, are being taken very fast. Just like one or three orthodox dates. Some people even have rules of dating, for example, they date on weekday nights only, leaving weekends for friends. The potential ‘zug’ (a partner) is not in that zone yet. I know there is a saying, the marriage is a hard work, but when modern dates became job interviews? Often with a list of questions, maybe not written, but obviously prepared. First time it has happened to me, on the set-up date (‘shiduh’ – the setting up – is very popular in Israel), I was shocked. I thought a man would want to put spell on me, use his charm, bath me with a romance on the first date… (‘stam, stam’ – Hebrew word of many meaning, you can read as joking), instead he was just asking close questions – yes or no. I could see in his head green V and red X! Finally I stepped ahead and asked him, too, if he likes culture. “What do you mean?” – he said. Well, at least one open question he made!
After three years in Israel, I understood, he was just following the local rules. Once, over dinner, an Israeli woman was telling me and other not close friends, both sex, how she has planned her dates for every evening of the following week, with different guys. As due to the age, “there was a time for her to meet someone to settle down”. A casting for husband. Another person “is dating”, not a one person, but “going on dates to find a girlfriend”, so at the moment he has no time for friends. (It just crossed my mind, I must contact him with that friend, who does not date on weekends, to help him organize his time.) Another friend dates just for “short term relationships” – again, like a job, the contract with an ending date…
The online dating, has changed the world. There is no doubt about that. Whether we want to take part in it or not. I used to call online dating, shopping. You must click on what you like: tall or short, smoking or not, wants to have children, already has, reads or not… and so on. But I am sorry to say it’s not just shopping, it works both ways, it’s also selling yourself the best way. I keep hearing in Tel Aviv: “the dating profile must be well written”, “you must answer carefully all the questions”, “a single girl should have a nice profile picture on a social media”… Any other person should have an ugly one? So in the same time when a picture disappears from CV, the dating profile becomes similar to your professional resume.
Tel Aviv is a big bubble of Israelis from all over the country, ‘expacts’ from all over the world who came here for limited time and ‘olim hadashim’ – new emigrants who try to build their new life. For that last group, life is even more intense. In a normal life we build things gradually. We make friendships on the way of life, we learn, we work, we meet people here and there… As new Israelis, we hear all the time ‘leat, leat’ (meaning: slowly, slowly; step by step), but as Israel is fast, the reconstruction of our lives is expected to be fast as well. All at once: a job, a place to live and the ‘zug’ – life partner. But is it really a must? Or also in the modern Israeli society there is still a place for romance, without decision-making at once?… With no deadline, at least when it comes to love ;)….
20/03/17, Tel Aviv
Text and photo: Basia Monka