August 28, 2003
"Did you ever kill anyone?" Lisa asks me.
Our first date is painfully coming to an end, and after two hours of chemistry-less conversation, Lisa seems as reserved as she did the moment she walked into the restaurant. Like many Jewish girls I've met in this city, Lisa is wearing an expression that says, "I'm bored. Why can't you be as cool as my dad?"
That is until she brings up my past. Then her cold, beautiful eyes finally wake up.
Sadness fills me: if there is one topic I don't want to talk about, it is the Israeli army and my horrible experiences there.
But it's my own fault, I suppose. Originally, I tried to hide my past on my JDate profile. I was hoping that by moving to Los Angeles four years ago I would be able to create a fresh beginning; pretend I didn't come from anywhere, especially from Israel. I specifically wrote that I was looking for a woman who was truly looking for gentleness, and that I wanted to talk about love and emotions. I didn't get too many takers.
But my good friend, Marissa, saw my "Used Soul for Sale" ad on JDate and decided to teach me a thing or two about dating - American style.
"Honey, wake up," she practically shouted. "This is L.A. If you want to succeed with a typical Jewish princess riding around in her dad's old Beemer you have got to stop thinking like a wimp. Think Tarzan. Think Crocodile Dundee. Your profile is a complete embarrassment to Israeli men."
"But I don't want to date women who are searching for barbarians," I said.
"Don't you get it? Israelis are seen by women as the Jewish savages; you're our fantasy - our warriors. We want to love hating you. So go and break our hearts."
Marissa forced me to tack a line onto my JDate profile: "Israeli ex-paratrooper is out for love again."
I felt abused and manipulated having to brag about the worst years in my life in order to get a date. If this is what it took to get American women interested in me, I was not interested. So I decided to cancel my JDate subscription the following day.
But by the next morning, I got 20 e-mails from women all wanting to date me ASAP.
I decided to date them, but they all started to seem the same: They enjoyed incessantly correcting my grammar, telling me how much I don't understand American culture and making generalities about Israeli culture - like Lisa.
"My mom told me never to date Israelis," Lisa says, looking angrily into my eyes. "Mom dated an Israeli after her divorce. He was rude, mean and very aggressive. Mom says that Israelis don't respect a lady's wishes, and that when a woman says 'no' it means nothing to you guys. She also said that Israelis expect a woman to sleep with them on the first night because that's the way it goes in Israel."
When I get the check, she - not the first - suddenly asks, "Was it hard being a paratrooper? You've probably seen such awful stuff. Probably done such horrible acts of violence."
I know by now that is the sign for the "Tough Israeli" show to begin.
I come closer and hug her. She puts up mild resistance.
"What are you doing? We're in a public place," she objects. "This is America. You can't just take a woman by force," she adds with a smile.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that you're shy," I say. But I don't let go.
"You Israelis think you can do whatever you want - but American women are not like the Arabs you bully around in the army," she says.
Although I've dreamed of going on a date with a woman who would just be herself and want to talk and get to know me - the real me - I see it won't happen tonight. I recall Marissa's words of wisdom: "Don't listen to them. Think Tarzan, Crocodile Dundee."
"Lady, shut up and enjoy, all right?" I whisper aggressively in her ear.
"Who do you think I am?" she asks, feebly.
I start backing away in disgust from this stupid act, but she quickly draws me back, to make sure I understand that she definitely doesn't want me to start acting like all the nice Jewish boys she loathes so much.
Like most Jews, she also has to verbalize her emotions, so she adds, "The biggest problem with American men is that they're just so soft and mushy. It's disgusting."
What is disgusting is how quickly we can fall into our roles of the aggressive Israeli and the passive Jewish girl.
But I know how it goes. The next morning, at her Mom's house, Lisa will tearfully confess to her mother that she was conned by some Israeli who wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
Her mother will look at her in understanding and tell her, "They're all the same, Israelis - aggressive, primitive, violent. They don't respect a lady's wishes."
Well, you know what they say: Be careful what you wish for.
Dan Katzir is an award-winning Israeli writer and director living in Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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