As I said in the intro, my obsession with marrying someone Jewish (which, of course, I now regret) led me to live in Tel Aviv, Israel. I actually fell in love with the place whilst I was filming a documentary on Israel & the Palestinian Territories, but that’s another story!
Although Israel is a democracy, it still is culturally the Middle East and there’s something (well certainly for me) in the air of Tel Aviv that makes me forget this. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a beach city and so cosmopolitan with an anything-goes type atmosphere but, nevertheless this catches you out. For example, people completely invade your space here, there is no concept of queuing (actually I think the Brits must have invented that!) and everything is usually disorderly, to the point of chaotic.
People are very direct, which I actually like. This is good as you know exactly where you stand with someone. I actually prefer this to the English way of people being two-faced. However, it can lend to some amusing anecdotes when it comes to dating. I’ve had guys text me after a date saying ‘sorry, but they felt there was no chemistry or they just didn’t fancy me’! I even had a guy in the middle of the date say to me that he wasn’t actually interested in a long-term relationship but just wanted to have sex! As I say, it’s actually quite handy as, at least, you don’t waste your time and it mitigates the risk of being hurt.
The other main thing you’ll notice about Israel is that everything happens extremely fast. For example, you could be having a conversation with someone on a dating site, sorry correction, not a conversation they’ll just ask for your phone number as people here are very impatient so they can’t be bothered to write and the next thing you know they’re asking to meet you for coffee the next day or depending on the time of the evening, to go for a drink later on. Compared to having to faff around with arrangements to find a gap in someone’s schedule, which can be up to three weeks ahead, I actually find this very refreshing.
If you think about it, this sense of urgency here is understandable, given that Israel is a country surrounded by enemies and is usually just fighting to survive. So people really do live for today here. There is no pomp and glory of centuries of tradition. The country was only founded in 1948 so it’s very young, but considering what the Israelis have made from essentially a desert is incredible, but this is for another time.
When I actually decided to settle here I was 43 and it really felt the end of the line as when I was dating in the UK I always thought to myself, well there’s always Israel. When I was younger I never had any particular affinity with the country. Sure, when I actually came here I did feel very moved at the Western Wall (the Temple Wall, the holiest site for Jews) but I always had the attitude there’s too much of the world to see, so why keep going back to the same place twice! If someone had said to me I’d end up living in Israel I would never have believed them, but then again, Tel Aviv is not really Israel.
Tel Aviv is a bubble and truly the most vibrant city in the world. Apart from the beautiful bodies playing Matcot along the beach (which I got addicted to myself!), and working out in the outdoor gyms. Its streets are bursting with cafes full of budding entrepreneurs on the laptops building their empires. I was actually very disappointed when I went to live in New York after Israel as I assumed everything would be open late in the Big Apple, after all isn’t it called the ‘City that never sleeps’? However, the streets of New York are empty at 3am compared with those of Tel Aviv.
It’s the Israelis’ dream to live in Tel Aviv after the army. So it’s a very young city where the average age is probably late 20s. Everyone is just here to hook up. People used to say to me don’t live here if I wanted to get married. In fact, Tinder must have been made for this city.
So when I first came you can understand my dismay that when I was in a bar of a party and was chatted up by a guy the first question they’d ask me is how old I was. They didn’t even want to know my name. Obviously, I had to reply with such clichés as ‘you should never ask a woman her age’, but this didn’t take away the pain it made me feel inside. I often just used to tell them to guess, just hoping they’d say I was ten years younger than I was, just to get a compliment! Actually, I then realised given they’d say I was ten years younger than they thought I was I realised they’d have to say e.g 15 years younger for me to feel ok about myself.
I even once asked a guy whilst on a date what was this all about. He told me that a guy wants to know because, if you’re in your early twenties, you’ll be up for a shag. If you’re in your early 30s they need to avoid you as you’ll be looking only to get married – and as all girls are taught, don’t sleep with someone too early on if you’re looking to get married. And if you’re in your early 40s, again you’re of interest to them as you’re probably desperate for a shag and still young enough looking that you could be attractive to a 25 year old.
As I said, people are very direct here. For example, I used to live one block from the beach and ended up arguing with a guy as to why I wouldn’t go with him on his motorbike for lunch. He stopped me on the corner to ask me the time, except he asked in Hebrew. The minute I said I don’t understand (in English) he came on to me, ‘ah, you’re visiting… let me show you around’ etc etc. In hindsight this is so obvious that a man would ask a simple question like this to get into a conversation with you. Although now I’d tell them to look at their phones! What as funny about this incident is that he was saying how I didn’t need to be afraid because he would drive slowly but I was arguing that I can’t just go off randomly on a stranger’s motorbike.
Maybe I had ‘fuck me’ written on my forehead that day but a few seconds later I arrived at the beach and decided to sit for a few mins and write my diary. No sooner than I’d put pen to paper than a guy came to sit next to me on the bench and tried to get into a conversation with me.
So I just went on to the beach and tried to continue but then an Israeli guy actually came to sit on my serong with me and virtually refused to move. So I got up and moved. I went to sit on another beach and surprisingly wasn’t disturbed. Without realising it, I found myself gazing at all these beautiful bodies. After a while I noticed that no one was coming to disturb me. Then I realised I was sitting on the gay beach – no wonder I was surrounded by Adonises.
Actually, I should have just learnt the easy way from my ex-boyfriend. He was Israeli but lived around the corner from me in London. He told me stories of how he’d chat someone up in the supermarket and 20 mins later be shagging them in bed or how he’d put his towel next to the most beautiful looking tourist on the beach. He then would proceed to go for a swim and ask if they’d watch his stuff. When he came out of the water he’d shake his body off near them and when he’d get his towel he’d thank them and get into a conversation with them – ‘Oh, you’re just visiting … let me show you around’!
The other thing about Israelis is that they have chutzpah. This is a Yiddish term for being cheeky. So, for example, the same boyfriend, when he was with me in London one day asked me on the phone if I was at home. He said good as he had something important to tell me so he’d come over. I was cleaning at the time and when he came over he lay on my sofa and then still managed to fall asleep while I was hoovering! When he woke up later, I asked what was so important he needed to tell me. I was actually on tenterhooks. He told me he just needed some peace and quiet to sleep as there were too many people at his place so thought mine would be quieter!
Many Israeli men I’ve noticed love asking the question, ‘what are the men like in London?’ or ‘how do we compare to the men in London?’. Frankly they’re just fishing and they openly show they know this lol (so Israeli). The reason they’re fishing for a compliment is that men in London are absolutely backwards when it comes to asking a girl out. Or maybe this was just my experience, and they just didn’t like me lol! I made it so easy for guys to ask me out and they still don’t e.g. ‘wow, I want to see that film too… I’m also free on Tuesday’! And without sounding too arrogant I’m talking about men that are not even that attractive and should be pleased to have a nice looking girl make it so easy for them!
The other reason the Israeli men might be asking this is that London tends to be full of Ashkenazis whose typical look for a guy approaching their 40s would be bald, big belly, big nose, can’t button up their shirt and shy as a result of it. Without mincing words they’d probably be a nerd and Jew-dos are full of them which is why I usually want to slit my wrists as there’s one thing you could never accuse me of being and that is a nerd!
In comparison Israelis tend to be more of a mixed race. Like all mixed races they’re beautiful. They have the dark look of the Middle East and seem to have taken the best bits of both Ashkenazis and Sephardis. Especially the girls, who have amazing figures. This brings me on to a funny aside story…
While I was filming in Israel I asked my fixer, ‘ how come all the girls have such amazing figures – big boobs but amazing legs and they’re not fat!’ He told me the following ‘that previously, in the 80s and 90s Israel put too many hormones in the chickens to get bigger chicken breasts so when people ate this they were also receiving all these hormones’! This could be true but I think it’s more likely that they have boob jobs. I later found out that there is a high prevalence of this amongst Israeli women! However, for some reason I like the chicken story.
So, as I said Israeli men are generally very forward and especially in Tel Aviv (TLV) are always on the pull and seem to be permanently horny! And if you want to know more just read some of my stories of dating Israeli men!