The need for speed – my first time speed dating in Tel Aviv

Written by
Sol Gruffy
It was a regular day at the Time Out offices (typing, sneezing and dreaming of lunch), when my co-worker suggested the speed dating night that she had seen somewhere on Facebook. I had just broken up with yet another boyfriend and thought the concept was absolutely hilarious.
When I found out that the event was set at the Hipsters new headquarters: Beit Hapsanter (piano house), I knew it was fate. Speed dating for snobbish hipsters that don’t have money, use Tinder ironically and would never admit their loneliness, yet cry themselves to sleep? I just had to investigate. If not for myself, then for the magazine.
© Ariel Efron
My editor-in-chief sent me off with an assignment to participate and a(n empty) promise that love awaited me around the corner. Then again, she's an ex-model, and as kindergarten socializing taught me: God favors the pretty ones.
For me, modern dating is like shopping on eBay; you can choose you product in the internet up to the most specific details: color, size, price and if he emotionally connects to Gilmore girls. You dream about it, and develop hopes for days. Then, when you finally get to meet for the first time, it’s always a disappointment.
© Ariel Efron
A few days before my first speed date night, the nerves started to kick in, so I called in for backup: my old friend, Tamari, whom with I've shared many lovely memories of drunken strolls down Allenby Street, like the time we physically fought off a homeless man for a stolen umbrella. She was perfect. Tamari, not the umbrella.
I called Tamari and gently explained that I was sad, alone and our friendship was at risk if she said no. She kindly agreed to participate. We threw on our best and mostly clean velvet dresses and were set to go.
The moment I dreaded most had finally arrived – entering the place awkwardly, looking around at terrified faces of guys trying to lean nonchalantly on vintage lamps, and fearing other girls would be so glamorous and fresh faced, they would put my ginger hair to shame.
© Ariel Efron
Tamari and I tiptoed to the bar in the stealthiest of manners. We were desperate to get in those last sips of liquid confidence while scoping out the room, when I noticed Tamari gazing into the distance. She looked so pensive, peaceful in this moment of utter anxiety. So I asked "Tamari, what are you thinking about?" when she replied, "I was wondering why I had diarrhea a few days ago". We were ready to face our fears.
Beit Hapsanter was the perfect backdrop for the evening. The vintage furniture, the heavy velvet drapes and the mysterious lighting reminded me of a brothel from the 1920's, and what is more suited for speed dating than that? To match the theme, all the girls were divided into 10 different "stops" and the men were instructed to spend five minutes at each stop.
© Ariel Efron
When the first guy joined me and our five minutes started I was still pretty anxious, so I tried to avoid eye contact by sipping my wine and crossing my legs in a way that would be consider as "lady like".
Pretty soon, I became more comfortable and actually started to enjoy myself. The conversation flowed nicely and it transformed into a nice challenge to try to pin down every guy in such a short time. Most of them were pretty pleasant and surprisingly normal (except one, who gaped deeply into my eyes and asked what my relation to heavy drugs was). One sweet guy even expressed how proud he was of himself for coming, which made me smile. And I think that’s the true success of this evening, having the courage to do something different – to get dressed, go out and be able to be a bit embarrassed. Get our heads off of Tinder, ok-cupid and low key Facebook stocking for five minutes at a time. I didn’t actually click with any of the guys, but hey! Maybe on the next speed dating night. Sign me up.
© Ariel Efron
At the end of the night, with more confidence in humanity and slightly drunk, I limped my way over to the two girls who created this night to ask a few questions. Here are the results:
Iris Zaki, 38, documentary filmmaker and PhD student in documentary Film
Chen Jane Zohar, 30, producer and content manager
How did you first come up with the idea of speed dating? Did it come from your own experiences as single ladies in Tel Aviv?
Iris: I just recently returned from a seven year stay in London. One day, I found myself at a semi-hipster speed date evening, and I really enjoyed chatting with different men for a few minutes. I liked that feeling of frivolous dating and wanted to bring it to Tel Aviv. I feel like this city is so much more fun and lighthearted than London. Along with Chen, we created an evening that unlike England, where some men felt forced to compare numbers between the sexes, we only posted it on Facebook and the response was immediate.
Chen: I am single after a 3 year relationship. After I got a little sick of the nightlife scene I found myself wanting to find someone interesting with a good potential for love, so I got into Tinder. I did not think these two years would be accompanied by so many bizarre characters. But I'm a bit of a hippie, so I tend to think that everybody came to me as a life lesson.
Iris: The idea was to bring some fun and lightness to the dating world. Tinder has, supposedly, the same goal but it is actually more of a neurotic game that you play within moments of boredom. The massive amount of people is generating apathy and fatigue. Our purpose was to create a romantic situation that is not binding and does not take itself seriously. Some things will never transfer through a screen; when you see someone and sit next to them for a few minutes you know immediately if it works.

© Ariel Efron

Tell me about your target audience and why you choose Beit Hapsanter for your first event?
Iris: Although we would like to appeal to people from Tel Aviv, we absolutely want to see new faces. We want people who aren’t necessarily from the same circles, that have been partying at the same places, and have probably already slept with each other. I had a lot of experiences with Tinder in the past, I went out with lots of guys, some of them were really cute, some were strange and super weird, and I spent the evening looking at them eat french fries, while  just wanting to go home. But yes, this is Tel Aviv; we’re not going to do some kind of a community center or a luxurious, serious event that feels like a conveyor belt.
Chen: From my experience I know how difficult it is to find love that is true and valuable in this city. In all of this, there are still a lot of men and women who are looking for monogamy and peace, but somehow it continues to be a challenge to find it. At this time in my life, I feel fed up with everything related to men, relationships and sex. I wanted to return to our roots, to remember how it feels to first meet, see each other and talk. We are excited to refresh the grayness of the single life.

© Ariel Efron

How was the event for you? What were the participants' reactions during and after the night?

Chen: For me it was super exciting to gaze from the side and watch everyone talking and being enthusiastic, especially after you become so used to seeing people apathetically staring at their phones.

Iris:The night went really nicely, with a lot of laughter and alcohol; we received great comments from everyone. People wrote us thank you notes, said that it was super fun and want to come again. We even created a few matches.
Chen:I hope God is already preparing my place in heaven.

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