“I was tired of the bare-knuckle treatment,” she explained. They’re polite, they open the door for her, they pay for dates [Israelis usually split the bill]. Besides, there was the green card to consider.” Batya is a beautiful, olive-skinned Sephardic woman, and men were practically climbing over each other to date her; still, things did not go as she hoped. A trail of broken hearts was rapidly forming behind her, her own included.“I can’t believe you just came out and said that,” he wrote back, his tone half wondering, half perplexed. It’s like dancing blindfolded — and barefoot — in a room full of mousetraps.This is especially true regarding Israeli and American Jews, for whom a common heritage masks vast differences in national culture and character.A 32-year-old literature professor at CUNY, Schwartz came here from Israel seven years ago and was enchanted by the gentility and ladylike manners of American women; but when it came to dating them, he kept smashing into invisible walls. “Every little thing you do or don’t do is judged — from the particular vocabulary you use, to the money you spend, to the frequency of your calls.You are constantly put to the test.” Compared to Israeli dating, where things are generally taken at face value, this was very difficult, he said.After three exasperatingly cautious dates and a month of coy e-mail exchanges, I got tired of beating around the bush and wrote Orie, my American prospect. “I just did,” I replied, “but the book I know is in Hebrew.” Of all the social mazes an immigrant must navigate when assimilating to a new, unfamiliar culture, dating is one of the most labyrinthine.I told him exactly what I liked about him, how much I liked it, and what I’d like to do about it — promptly, if possible. In a field so touchy, so reliant on subtle cues and signals, lacking the cultural context can be disastrous.But she soon realized she needed a little more coddling to get by than the typical Israeli had to offer.
By the time Roy Schwartz and Kim Miller met each other, for example, they were both pretty jaded.“I had to learn the hard way that here, unlike in Israel, dating is a game to played,” said Schwartz.