February 18, 2020

Love in a Time of War

Right after a bombing in Jerusalem, A.S. went out on a date.

Because she now assiduously avoided bars and cafes, "I had to wrack my brains for a place to go," she recalls.

Downtown was out of the question. Ditto for Emek Refaim, the Jerusalem street known for its trendy restaurants and cafes. "We ended up at the bar in the King David Hotel, not a place I usually frequent, but the place was full, and that just shows you I wasn’t alone in my thinking," she says.

A.S., a 33-year-old businesswoman originally from the New York metropolitan area, has lived in Jerusalem for the past seven years. From an active, Conservative Jewish background, she loves her life in Israel and still "feels good about it, despite the situation.

"Daily life is certainly limited," she says. "My friends and I have been doing a lot of video nights, just so we won’t feel so isolated in our apartments."

Last December, A.S. broke up with her boyfriend who seemed like The One, and so her dating status "changed along with the political situation. Not only have I not had a boyfriend … but I’ve had to deal with the escalating [violence] and what that would mean for attempting to date," she says.

These days, A.S. has observed that many single people in Israel either seem too "stressed to think about their dating life or just the opposite. They’re eager to find someone and just settle down, because in times like these, who wants to waste time playing the dating game," she says.

A.S., however, still wants to play and firmly believes that life must go on. The political situation has not affected her basic priorities. She still wants to meet the future father of her children, "but in some ways, my desire has become somewhat less urgent these last few weeks," she says. "When you’re worrying about getting blown up, or shot at, or listening to the missiles falling in Bethlehem, you start thinking, ‘I’m going to enjoy what I have now, because I don’t know what could come next.’"

For example, A.S. had a blind date that got canceled because the date had to report for military reserve duty. "This means it could be weeks or months until I hear from him again," she says. "That feels strange. And I suppose if we did go out and he didn’t agree with my politics, that would be cause not to go out again."

On the other hand, A.S. doesn’t know anyone who would decline a date "because of safety reasons. People are keeping up the search, which not only is second nature when you’re single, but it helps keep your mind off the news," she says.

"It’s just a challenge to think of where to go out. Everyone has their own hot spots and comfort zones, where they don’t feel threatened by the possibility of a suicide bomber stopping by," A.S. explains. "But people still flirt and go to parties here, which are safe if they’re in someone’s apartment."

If invited out to dinner in a public place by a man of interest, A.S. says she would go. "No question. I would ask what the security will be like and consider that issue, but given the fact we’re all spending more time at home, I find that I jump at opportunities to get out."

A.S. likens her current life and times to the World War II blitz attacks on London. All emotions are heightened, and people tend to act more on impulse than normal," she says. "I feel like throwing caution to the wind more often than not. Like if I were to meet a man I liked, I would ask him out, which is not something I normally do. And if I felt like dying my hair platinum blond, I also would."

This live-in-the-moment philosophy has also led A.S. to the epiphany that "I don’t want to look back and I say that I spent my single years depressed because I wasn’t with someone. In some ways, I feel that dating now is where it should have always been on my list of priorities," she says. "It’s still important, but there are other things in life."

As she continues to watch a multitude of videos in her apartment, A.S. remains hopeful "that things will eventually get better. But I fear it won’t be for a long time, and I don’t know what that means for me personally. I do know I won’t wait forever to meet someone here," she says. "If I think I have a better chance of meeting someone somewhere else, I’ll leave. But that won’t be an easy decision."