Here is a list of things you don't think will happen in a single day:
- Discover, first thing in the morning, that your car battery is dead (yet again).
- Return home in the evening to find out your apartment has been broken into.
- Receive a marriage proposal from a 32-year-old Muslim woman living in Kuwait.
- Say "yes".
I swear all of the above happened to me the other day. But for your own good let's put aside numbers 1 and 2 and focus on number 3.
It was reported lately that there has been a sharp increase in the number of Muslims from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia logging on to Israeli dating sites. One of these sites, Ydate, has about five percent Muslim users. Nir Goldberger, the site's owner, says we should be glad: "It might be a platform for communication between the cultures that the political channels don't provide. Yet, it might also be an attempt to seduce Israeli girls."
I didn't really understand what he said, but, Manel laughs when I tell her about it. She's got the cutest dimples that are adorable even though I see them via her web cam.
Manel is a chemical engineer and is tired of Kuwaiti men because "they're BMW-driving chauvinist pigs" (I didn't have the courage to tell her the description fits Israeli men too). In the meantime, she refuses to marry and tries to meet other types of men, but it's a difficult task in a country that has no bars, night clubs or even coffee shops. "Dating" is a term that doesn't exist in Kuwait. It's true that in Kuwait you might find some unmarried couples, but about 90 percent of those cases end in murder – usually of the woman by one of her family members.
So the only option available for Manel is the internet.
Anyway, I found myself talking to Manel who knows all of Nick Hornsby's work by heart, and sees the humor in setting a meeting in a restaurant at the edge of the universe. Suddenly, there's one question on my mind: Why the hell not?
Truth is there's no reason not to. Especially since Shelly, 19, describes herself as "not blond, but got blue eyes. Some say I'm smart... he... ha... but I come out normal in IQ tests." "Rebel," almost 21, is also not a good enough reason. Here's what she writes: "I'm a fun girl and I like older, good looking, rebellious boys." Come on!
Manel on the other hand, talks about sex but admits, simply and shyly, she hasn't had it. That's how things are in Kuwait: You meet a guy, you get married, and then you do it. She's planning to wait until she's married. It might sound naïve but it makes me want to listen. She talks about compassion, chocolate, and yearning to be hugged.
Then she talks about Hamas and Hizbullah – not really what I define as romantic topics. But, Manel, an opinionated Palestinian refugee, can't avoid the subject. Her opinions are very far from mine but she is interested in hearing them.
I don't know how you are, but I enjoy talking to people who don't think like I do. Try to find someone like that who'll actually listen and you'll realize how rare such people are.
Manel is innocent and smart and sensitive, and a little voice in my head keeps yelling "and a Muslim from Kuwait." The good news is that in the summer, she plans to go to London. She invites me for a coffee in Hyde Park. "You know," she writes, "I think you were meant for me." My initial instinct is to say, "Hey, lady, take your time. We just met."
Yet my fingers are already typing the words: "You know... I think you're right."