The German-Israeli Romantic Exchange

Jerusalem Post, July 22, 2016

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During last year’s jubilee celebrations of the Jerusalem-Berlin diplomatic relationship, much fanfare was made about economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and academic collaborations, but one topic went little discussed: German- Israeli romantic relations.

Another kind of diplomacy is taking place in bars, restaurants – and bedrooms – in which the bonds of love (or lust) create unique and intimate intersections of German-Israeli past, present, and future.

But just as German-Israel diplomatic relations can be fraught with complications, so can German-Israeli inter-dating, in part due to different mentalities and dating codes (and the issue of intermarriage, for some). Israelis and Germans of all ages who have dated on both sides of the Israeli-German curtain have offered some insights.

The pick-up The stereotype of the reserved German and effusive Mediterranean could be summed up in a joke:

A German and Israeli man walk into a Tel Aviv bar and spot a pretty girl. Before the German even orders his beer, the Israeli approaches her while she keeps eyeing the German. The German sulks over his first – and second – beer, until he gets the drunken courage to ask her why she keeps looking at him.

“I wanted to talk to you, but you didn’t approach me,” she says.

The German man looks stupefied. “But I looked at you!”

Romina Rotem Moyal, of German-Italian descent, has dated both German and Israeli men until marrying her Israeli husband, who is of Libyan-Morrocan descent.

“Israeli guys don’t need a drink or two before they have – how can I say it – the ‘nerve’ to just start a conversation with you,” she said.

Israeli assertiveness could be a plus or minus, depending on the woman’s preference.

Eliana Stern, an observant immigrant from Germany of three years, prefers the subtle approach: “Secular Israeli men – and to a certain extent surprisingly also religious men – are often quite aggressive when it comes to ‘picking up’ women. And quite often they are not looking for anything serious.”

According to David (name changed upon request), this “aloofness” is not reserved for men. “My experience in Germany shows more aloofness among Germans whereas Israeli women tend to let you know quickly whether they ‘like’ you or not.”

Dating and courtship

These qualities find themselves in the dating and courtship process as well.

Hadas Gorodetzky, a Rehovot native who moved to Germany in 2007 to study psychology, has noticed that Germans are generally more calculating in building a relationship.

“With Israelis I can connect very fast and get intimate (emotionally and mentally) very quickly if we have the right chemistry. Germans are different; they are more careful with people.”

The slow, shy German approach, however, may prove more reliable in the long term. “On the other hand, Germans take everything much more seriously, so if a guy here makes a move, it means so much more than if an Israeli guy makes a move.”

Jussy, a tall, red-head from Cologne prefers dating Israeli men for their dark features and sexier attitude, which she sums up as: “Israeli men have esh batahat [fire in their ass].” She describes them as warm-hearted and passionate.

“They make you feel like a woman.”

Janin, a German attorney who splits her time between Berlin and Tel Aviv, is also attracted to Israeli assertiveness, which has its downsides.

“They’re more open. It’s easier to get in contact. That’s the easy part. But later it becomes more complicated,” she said, attributing complications to a “big ego” stemming from a more macho society.

Since Germans often consider themselves “feminists,” they are more likely to “go Dutch.”

Moyal said you can’t always count on Germans to pick up the tab on the first date.

“This happened to me twice, and it was only a coffee. Well, I never saw them again but they couldn’t understand why this was a big deal for me.”

But a German man’s “liberation” has its upside. They are more likely to cook diner for a woman and also fix things around the house.

“In Israel, mostly, your date’s mom knows how to cook,” Moyal said, “and if you are hungry, you visit his mom or a restaurant.”

Marriage

The constant threat of war and the Jewish commandment of “be fruitful and multiply,” as well as the concern with Jewish continuity, have made Israel a much more marriage- and family-oriented society.

“In Israel getting married and having children is something you must do,” Gorodetzky said. “All your friends do it, so you feel pressure also to do it, and you get the impression this is the only right way to live. In Germany, it’s not like that, so this means also the men here are less eager to make a commitment.”

Moyal is an anomaly among her German friends: “I already have two kids, and I’m sure that some of my friends think those weren’t planned at all. But they were.”

For Nathan, who started a Facebook group for German-speaking singles in response to a post on this issue, the preoccupation with marriage makes dating more difficult in Israel.

“There is an obsession with getting married which is very unromantic. Procreation often seems to be the main aim of dating, not falling in love.”

Outlook on life

Due to the Israeli preoccupation with economic and physical survival, Israelis tend to “live for the moment,” more willing to take risks in life.

“I think Israeli men have this confidence from the army, that is very good in life in terms of entrepreneurship and startups – and it’s a survival skill in the big world, but this confidence could also affect their approach to women at a certain point,” said Lisa (name changed upon request), an immigrant from the US who lives in Tel Aviv, who has dated both German and Israeli men. Israeli boldness often leaves them wanting in sensitivity, finesse and subtlety in the romantic sphere.

According to Janin, the precariousness of life in Israel makes Israelis put a premium on relationships. “It’s more focused on social things, on relationships, no matter what that is – friendships, love relationships. It’s more important than for German people. In Germany, they focus on work.”

Germans, on the other hand, generally feel secure in their financial and physical survival so they could take their time enjoying the finer things in life, like liberal arts education and world travels. And the difficulty of making it in Israel may affect a woman’s romantic choice.

Nathan noted that many Israeli women are more concerned with a man’s status and financial means. “The question is often: “what are you?” – not “who are you?”

The Holocaust question

The dark history between Germany and the Jews, which plays a role in Israel- German diplomatic relations, is a marginal factor in the dating life of interviewees.

“It creates tension around the question: ‘What did family members (grandparents, for example) do during the war, but I see the young generation and their parents as not responsible at all for the Holocaust,” Gorodetzky said.

Diana (name changed upon request), a German artist who moved to Israel and married (and divorced) an Israeli, said: “I usually don’t think about the Holocaust when I’m on a date, but when I do, I must admit that it can be a bit intriguing because of the feeling that love conquers death.”

And while German-Israeli relations may be blossoming in more ways than one, for most, it’s all about the individual and not the nationality.

“I think both of them have their advantages and disadvantages,” Gorodetzky said, “but the most important thing to me is the person himself, how he treats me, and how the connection is between us. If we are a good match, then everything else is less important.”

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