I’d never really dated other Jews. I have nothing against them. I like bagels, complaining, self-deprecating humor, and overblown camp stories as much as the next person. I just always went for goys. Their light hair, white skin and freakishly tall bodies just did it for me. For a brief amount of time, I even dated a Lebanese girl. But no Jews. Go figure.
I moved to a suburb of Tel Aviv after leaving a love of my life in Toronto. He was absolutely brilliant, totally amazing and utterly destructive. After two years of dating and two months of mourning, I carved a path towards what would eventually become the greatest dating streak of my young life.
When I first saw Nati, he was wearing Union Jack sunglasses and riding in the front seat of a Jeep Wrangler. Even sitting, I could tell that he was a solid five foot eight, which is six feet in Israeli man inches. He had just returned from a year abroad in Australia and Southeast Asia. He said things like, “I reckon” and “yeah mate” un-ironically. His friend drove us to a beach that was worryingly far away from the city.
But Nati was so charming that I didn’t notice until we were miles away from the nearest bus stop. He was funny, interesting, and recklessly bohemian. I low-key fell for him in what I later referred to as the “Stockholm Experience.”
I went with Nati to a Hebrew hip-hop show a few days later. We flirted, and he seemed genuinely interested in my movie opinions. Later that night, I pulled him into a cab and we went home to have the most drunkenly athletic sex ever witnessed by God. Disgustingly smug with ourselves, he invited me to his house several more times before he left for Canada that November. When he dropped me off at the train for the last time, he asked for my address. “You’re a writer,” he said. “So I know you’ll appreciate real letters.” I received his first letter on Christmas Eve. We kept in touch.
Flash forward a few months. Nati called to say that he was returning to Israel earlier than expected, and that he hoped we could see each other again. After months of texting and letter writing, I sort of expected that he – ya know – liked me. I went to visit him a week after he landed, and we had a great time telling jokes, making eyes at each other, and trading hookup stories from our months apart. After a whole day of drinking and smoking, he confessed that he had just broken up with a girl in Canada. In his words, she was “beautiful,” and he “still thought about her a lot.” When I asked him why he wanted to see me so soon after a clearly tumultuous breakup, he said, “you’re here and you’re attractive. I can’t help myself.”
I left the next morning without waking him up. I couldn’t blame him for falling for someone else, but what a shitty way to say it. You wrote me letters, dude! You clearly liked me! Don’t be such a dick next time. Seriously, what a rookie mistake.
I met Tamar at a gay bar called “Splits” on New Years Eve. I went with three of my gayest American girlfriends, and we all got rip-roaring drunk on gin. When Tamar introduced herself, she said that she was a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Since Israelis perform mandatory military service in their late teens and 20s, this story sounded only a little ridiculous.
I bought Tamar a drink, and we started making out and second-base’n it in front of the bar. I adored her immediately. She yelled Hebrew obscenities at the grown men who stared at us as they passed. Then she begged me to have sex with her in a Tel Aviv alleyway, and I told her, point blank, that we were not desperate 17-year-olds. Saddened but not discouraged, she gave me her number.
I started texting her, and a few days later she confessed that she was, in fact, a desperate 17-year-old. (Her words: “a senior in high school.”) She had snuck into the bar with a fake I.D. After 20 minutes of watching me dry heave, my roommates began a rousing chorus of “dancing queen, young and sweet only seventeen.” For future reference, the age of consent in Israel is sixteen. Which is disgusting.
I found Gal on Tinder. She was, and is, the most beautiful woman who has ever agreed to spend time with me. She was all green eyes, dark skin, red lips and wavy mermaid hair. And tits. I mean damn. She said she was an actress, but her real talent lay in instagramming gay parties in Tel Aviv. I was eager to embark upon a doomed, lesbian, transcontinental love affair.
I took Gal out to a coffee shop a few days after we matched. We talked about our lives, our dreams, etc. She was very feminine, which led me to absorb the “masculine energy.” Frankly, I feel more comfortable as “the guy” in lesbian pairings, which is confusing for everyone who knows me. However, in Israel, becoming “the guy” basically means that you do all the emotional heavy lifting. Israeli women are spoiled like that.
At the end of the date, I paid for Gal’s coffee and we hugged. We texted back and forth for a few weeks, and she always seemed enthusiastic to hear from me. I even drunk messaged her from Cyprus, which she LOVED. However, I’m not an experienced Israeli guy, and I was unprepared for the level of planning necessary to execute a relationship with an Israeli woman. Eventually, I grew tired of chasing Gal around. I stopped texting her back, and she stopped texting me. However, she was hired as one of the poster children for Tel Aviv Pride that year, so I still got to see her face all the time.
I met Rotem a few years ago on a Taglit trip. I know, I know. Sue me. I’m that girl. Rotem was disgustingly handsome and stoic. He spoke so rarely, but he always laughed at my jokes. He had beautiful eyes. He was also kind, protective and well intentioned. Very tan. Very Sephardic. Like so Sephardic that his mom did the Xena warrior call (“eyeyeyeye”) at his Bar Mitzvah.
When I moved to Israel last year, I endeavored not to have sex with Rotem. As a rule, I think it’s a good idea not to fuck all your guy friends – especially the ones you want to keep around. Rotem, however, had different ideas. He hit on me immediately, which was difficult considering that I had just broken up with my Canadian boyfriend. Over the next few months, we marathoned cultural misunderstandings and emotional misfires. Eventually, I did sleep with him out of spite and self-destructiveness, which I do not recommend. We hooked up for two months before I asked to stop. He was genuinely surprised. He thought we were dating.
We stayed apart for another two months before realizing that we missed the people we had been to each other when we first met. We agreed to get together as friends. We talked about what had happened, and he was incredibly kind and understanding about it all. We did the friends with benefits thing on and off until the end of the year, but like, we were actual friends this time. It worked. Sometimes we went to eat hummus. Sometimes we had incredible sex against a wall. Of all my Israeli entanglements, Rotem was probably my greatest success. I don’t think we would have worked as an actual couple, but our small affair suited both of us.
When I first saw Schlomi on a beach in Tel Aviv, I was POSITIVE he was gay. Like, I would have bet real American dollars. He was so handsome that it hurt my weak, mortal eyes. He was also wearing tiny black athletic shorts and no shirt. Gay? Gay.
At one point, I caught Schlomi starring at me. My friend even asked, “why is that gay guy starring at you?” Then, Schlomi walked over and said, “I want to talk to you when I get back. I’m attracted to you.” He proceeded to leave his bag with us, and disappear for five minutes – maybe to hand in his homosexuality card. When he returned, he asked, “why do the musicians sing of love?”
Okay, okay. I know that’s literally the dumbest pickup line, but Schlomi’s beauty had stupefied me. I said, “because it’s easy.” Seemingly impressed, he sat down. Schlomi then proceeded to spin a story so overtly ridiculous and so covertly charming that I had to confirm it with my friend the next day. Schlomi, as it turned out, was married. His wife was Moldovan, and they had married as friends so that she could work in Israel. (She wasn’t Jewish, and therefore ineligible to claim the “right of return.”) Schlomi said that they had experimented with a “real marriage,” but later called it off. They were starting to date other people.
This was all shocking enough, but Schlomi had another secret up his sleeve. He didn’t “experience sexual desire.” What the what? My friend and I drilled Schlomi for another hour about this second, even more interesting confession. Are you sure you’re not gay? Like, super, super sure? Schlomi said he was sure. He really wanted to experience sexual desire, which was why he had cornered me on the beach. I, apparently, was someone with whom he could envision fucking and liking it.
I told Schlomi that I would consider a date on following Monday, on the condition that he told his wife about me. I said that I didn’t want to be a secret, which shouldn’t be a problem in an open marriage. Schlomi texted me the next day with news! He wrote, “she definitely knows about you, and she’s upset. She usually knows about these things after they happen.”
Once I realized that he wasn’t actually in an open marriage, the rest of Schlomi’s story sort of fell apart. He asked if we could meet as friends, and I politely declined.
Oh, Jesus. Noam. This is probably the best story of the year in a year of pretty freakin’ good stories. I met Noam on Tinder after Rotem and I decided to try a three-way. At the time, I thought that group sex might be the balm to sooth my bisexual soul. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)
Noam was talented and interesting, and she liked the off-kilter, frat boy humor that I employ for lesbian parings. We chatted for a bit, and I noticed that we shared a mutual Facebook friend: my then-roommate, an American from Chicago. “How do you know, Noam?” I asked. My roommate fell over laughing. Apparently, they had been friends on an Israeli immersion tour for American teenagers many years ago (Noam was an Israeli peer).
Armed with this information, I decided that Noam was probably not a serial killer. Also, if she liked the 16-year-old version of my roommate, then I figured that I would like her too.
Noam met Rotem and I in Tel Aviv. We sat at a French-style terrace near Rabin Square. Looking back, we were a very strangely tangled group of hipsters. Noam was taller than both Rotem and I, though I am slightly taller than Rotem. We were all exquisitely dressed, but everyone spoke English for my benefit. In fact, it is a testament to both Rotem and Noam that they had a threesome entirely in English. They really deserved an ESL award.
We brought Noam back to Rotem’s apartment. I smoked us up. We drank too much whiskey. We watched Israeli reality TV. I kissed Noam first. I then maneuvered Noam’s face so that she kissed Rotem. It all went swimmingly from there. Shirts were removed. Holes were filled. People smacked other people sexily. Rotem rose to MVP status. I winked too much. We woke up the next morning. We did it all again.
The three of us never had sex after that. I think Noam and I realized that we weren’t as compatible in real life, though we both liked each other well enough. She and I met up as friends a few weeks later. Rotem was clearly the most disappointed, but it was hard to pity him. Nowadays, Noam lives with my former roommate – her old friend from the Israeli immersion trip – in an apartment in Jaffa. It’s a suitable end to what was, by all accounts, already a ridiculous stream of events.
When men and women become friends, they tend to fall into two categories. They’re either “siblings” or lovers in denial. Leo and I never kissed. We never had sex. We never openly entertained a relationship romantically. We were siblings, but we were more than siblings. We occupied that dangerous middle space of not really dating. I loved Leo. I told him so. I think he loved me. We needed each other. We drove each other crazy. I have known few people so intimately and desperately.
When I met Leo, he was recovering from a terrible haircut that made him look like an oversized boy scout. He was short and stocky with blue eyes and a big jaw, and he dressed like a Jew camp counselor. (He would want it clarified that he can dress well, but chooses not to). “You wouldn’t have given me the time of day if I’d talked to you at a bar,” he said, too accurately, almost eight months later. And that would have been my loss.
Leo and I played hooky on our first day to visit Jerusalem together. Another time, he carried me to the bar because I sprained my ankle mid-walk and refused to go home. When I burst into tears after a louse fell out of my hair at work, Leo went across the street to buy the lice shampoo that he would then spend the next hour massaging into my scalp. We spent whole afternoons on my patio, drinking vodka sodas and playing chess. We smoked too much of everything. We went camping, which I hated. We watched movies, which I only hated sometimes.
Of all my Leo stories, there’s one that comes to mind as the best example of how well he adored and endured me. Seven months after arriving in Israel, my Canadian ex-boyfriend unfollowed me on all social media. It was so basic, so stupid. Still, anyone who has experienced a big breakup knows that the cracks come in waves. This crack was the big one for me. Leo, who was dating a stunningly beautiful Moroccan girl at the time, met me at his door and allowed me to sob wretchedly into the sweater that she had first fucked him in. He sat with me on the couch as I cried, saying awkward, sweet things like, “no one gets to make you feel this way.” I needed Leo that year, and never more than in that moment.
So, this is where I am now. I’m post-reckless dating streak. I moved back to North America. I got a job. I pay a cellphone bill. Sometimes I cook. I’m not currently dating anyone. I’m not looking.
I still keep in contact with Rotem, Noam and Leo. Noam and my Chicago ex-roommate get along well in their tiny apartment. They go to parties and strip clubs. I think Noam is writing music. Rotem still has his job in Tel Aviv. We text back and forth some weeks, and I miss his soothing energy and beautiful face. Gal and I are still Facebook friends, and she still takes the best instagram photos. I have no idea what happened to Tamar and Schlomi. After I left Nati’s house, I unFriended him on social media. He never contacted me again. I can’t tell if he was ashamed or just apathetic. Leo and I are still close. I went to visit him in New York last week and he’s doing well. He’s planning on going to graduate school next year.
I almost stayed in Israel. I really, really considered it. In spite of everything, I loved the wildness. I even loved the complexity – the challenge of life. I loved arguing. I loved shouting. Many of my friends moved back. Some of them just couldn’t live anywhere else again. For me, I think it’s best that I leave that version of myself to the desert. I’m stable here, and I’m happy.