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How the Israel-Hamas war upended online dating

The morass of dating apps was already a nightmare to muddle through. Then came a terror attack, a war and a growing cultural chasm

After the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, Rose, a 24-year-old graduate student in New York, took a break from dating. She had family and friends in Israel and was too distraught by the attack to log into the apps and navigate the morass of men. 

“The idea of sitting across from a stranger and being like, ‘I’m really passionate about Israel’ — I don’t want to have to explain it to people,” she reflected. 

When she reopened her dating apps a few weeks later, Rose was stunned to find that the war between Israel and Hamas had transformed the way many men presented themselves in their profiles. 

“I’ll fall for you if…you’re a leftist,” one man wrote, with a Palestinian flag emoji, on his profile on Hinge, a popular app used by people looking for serious relationships.

“Give me travel tips for…Ramallah,” another person wrote. On the app Bumble, Rose saw a person write, “A non-negotiable: free palestine.” 

“It shouldn’t say that much about a person, a cute little prompt,” said Rose, who asked to be identified by her middle name. “When you’re taking that prompt, and you’re putting the most loaded geopolitical issue of our year — in my opinion, of our lifetime — it’s just like, ‘OK, this person has no nuance,’ which is what I’m looking for.”

Much as the Israel-Hamas war has had major ramifications on college campuses and in the workplace, the events in the Middle East have fundamentally changed the experience of dating for many American Jews, particularly those using dating apps. Eleven Jewish singles living in major U.S. cities spoke to Jewish Insider about their experience on the apps after Oct. 7, and they paint a picture of a dating landscape, always fraught, now filled with politically-tinged minefields. 

Many confessed to rethinking their own dating preferences; some are now only dating Jews, even when that had not been their practice before. All said they have seen a marked increase in people who talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on their profiles. 

“I’m mostly having trouble with how it’s infiltrating the space because I do not see differentiation between Israel and Judaism,” said Shayna, a woman in her 20s in New York. “I can’t tell if the statements are political or discriminatory and that makes me want to close out the apps all together.”

On some profiles, the issue is highlighted in a subtle way: A photo on a profile showing a person in Israel in front of the Western Wall, or a mention that they speak Hebrew.

Others are more overt. Several people have come across profiles that say, “Zionists swipe left.” (Swiping left means turning the person down.) One man included a photo of him holding up a sign that said “Let’s have hummus, not Hamas” at the November pro-Israel rally in Washington. The lead photo on one woman’s profile showed her at a pro-Palestine rally in San Diego, holding a sign that called President Joe Biden Israel’s “puppet.” 

“Someone who makes a point of using one of their few brands to list that in their profile as being really important to them, I just don’t think they would be open to having a discussion,” said Amy, a 27-year-old in Boston. Amy has family in Israel but also has concerns about Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and she wants someone who understands the issue’s complexity. (At a “MatzoBall” event for Jewish singles in December, a man called her a “sheep” for not agreeing with every aspect of the Israeli government’s actions since Oct. 7.)  

One New York lawyer in his 30s has been surprised by how frequently he sees anti-Israel content on dating apps. He shared screenshots of several examples.

One woman wrote in her profile, “You should leave a comment if…you’re a big spoon and you’re serious about abolition, organizing, freeing palestine, and/or ending capitalism.” Another described herself as a “nice short + loud jewish gal (free palestine).”

One woman on the app Feeld, which is geared toward casual sex and people who want to “explore gender, sexuality and desire outside of existing blueprints,” described herself as a “busy law student” and added a note of warning: “Obviously I don’t f*** zionists or cops.” 

The lawyer had seen similar “far-left virtue-signaling” before Oct. 7, usually with references to the police or capitalism. But the anti-Israel messaging is new.

“The fact that that’s perceived as cool right now, it’s kind of scary as an American Jew,” said the lawyer, who requested anonymity, citing constraints from his employer. 

One-third of Americans have tried online dating, including more than half of 18- to 29-year-olds. While posts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are new, discussion of politics on the apps is not. On Hinge, users can describe their politics, and many liberal users swipe left on anyone who writes “conservative” or even “moderate,” viewing it as a less-overt way of saying Republican. (David, a 30-year-old in New York, told JI he removed “conservative” from his profile after receiving trolling responses; since then, he has matched with more women.) 

“Jewish or not, since 2016, people have been more vocal about their politics on their profile,” said Erika Ettin, a New York-based dating coach who helps people develop their online dating profiles. She said her clients still often come across profiles that say, “If you support [former President Donald] Trump, swipe left.”

“Even if you completely agree with that, which I certainly do, the sentiment is really negative to have in the profile,” said Ettin. “Even my liberal clients are still not necessarily going to choose someone who writes that in their profile because it’s overkill sometimes.”

Some of the Jewish singles who talked to JI said that the strong political language on both sides can be off-putting, making it hard to connect in a genuine way. 

“I’d definitely be less inclined to swipe right on someone if I think they harbor a lot of anti-Zionist sentiment,” said Joseph, a 27-year-old gay man from Chicago. “If I think someone presents as too pro-Israel to the point of disregarding the Palestinian side of the story, that’s also a no.” 

For others, the proliferation of Israel-focused posts on the apps has actually been a boon to their dating lives: It allows users to swipe quickly past those with whom they might clash in favor of those who align with them on the issue.

“A lot of men have posted things like, ‘If you’re not pro-Israel, I’m not interested.’ I think people are very much being more specific and intentional about that on their profiles,” said Hannah, a 30-year-old in New York. “I’m seriously dating, so it gets that conversation out of the way.” 

Sydney, a 28-year-old New Yorker, recently posted a photo of herself at a Shabbat dinner — with challah and other Jewish imagery front and center — as a nod toward her connection to Judaism. She is now only dating Jewish men; previously, she hadn’t strongly considered religion as a factor.

“I am now looking more closely at those signals. If I see an Israeli flag, it’s an immediate yes. If I see a photo from someone who was at an FIDF [Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces] gala or a UJA event, immediate yes. No question,” said Sydney. “I am definitely looking to find someone whose values align with mine.” 

One of Ettin’s clients responded to the Oct. 7 attacks by pivoting only to JDate, a move Ettin advised against: Once a pioneer in Jewish online dating, JDate has fallen in popularity as apps like Hinge, which allow users to filter by religion, have become more widely used. A newer dating app called Lox Club, which requires users to be approved for membership and pay a monthly fee, has seen its membership explode in the past three months.

More than 10,000 matches took place on the platform since Oct. 7, more than twice as many as the period before the Hamas attacks. 

“It’s making Jewish people realize it’s more important than ever to date a Jewish partner, especially since the war began,” Lox Club founder Austin Kevitch told JI this week. “Talking about complex issues like that isn’t easy with with people who don’t deeply understand or empathize with the Jewish culture.”

 

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