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Serving up love: Israelis see war as catalyst to matchmake

With the home front in need of a morale boost, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers called up to the front lines, some have seized on the opportunity to try their hand at Israel’s national pastime — matchmaking.

In particular, actress and social media influencer Maya Wertheimer has called on her half million Instagram followers to send photos of their unmarried enlisted and reservist family members in an effort to find them soulmates.

Calling it her “Singles in Uniform corner,” Wertheimer — the wife of former Israeli consul-general to New York Asaf Zamir — has so far shared dozens of photos and short descriptions of soldiers on her account, in an effort to “make sure that no soldier goes lonely.”

The initiative even grabbed the attention of the IDF, who reached out to Wertheimer to say that they welcome the effort, but to ensure she not share the last names and specific jobs of the soldiers for security reasons.

“I don’t think I’ver even in my life seen such a demand for love,” Wertheimer told Channel 13 news on Monday about the current atmosphere.

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She said she has also visited a number of wounded soldiers in hospitals, many of whom “are thinking, ‘my whole life is in front of me, I need to keep living, and fall in love, and build a family.’ It gives you hope.”

Maya Wertheimer at the launch event of the Kan public broadcaster, in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

And Wertheimer isn’t the only one seeing the sorrows and challenges of war as a potential catalyst to match up couples.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett also seems to have applied himself to the task in recent weeks, in between his blitz of interviews defending the Jewish state on foreign TV networks as well as organizing volunteer efforts.

“In recent days I find myself urging friends who are couples and already dating for a while to get married already and have kids,” Bennett wrote on X last week. “I’m pretty sure I’ve already finalized 4-5 weddings of those wounded or members of bereaved families (I apply moderate physical pressure until they give in).”

בימים האחרונים אני מוצא את עצמי מאיץ בזוגות חברים שכבר יוצאים תקופה ארוכה, להתחתן כבר ולעשות ילדים.

לדעתי סגרתי כבר איזה 4-5 חתונות של פצועים או בני משפחות שכולות (אני מפעיל לחץ פיזי לא מתון עד שנעתרים).

במיוחד לבנים:
לא צריך להתלבט עד אין סוף.
מתקדמים, מתחתנים, עושים ילדים…

— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) October 17, 2023

A day earlier, the former prime minister posted a photo of himself visiting a wounded soldier in the special forces LOTAR counterterrorism unit, making sure to note that “Tomer does not currently have a girlfriend” (and that the photo was posted with his permission).

The post prompted one reader to reply: “Is that Naftali or cupid?”

Comedian Hanoch Daum also got into the spirit, sharing a photo of himself with a shirtless lone soldier from Chicago named Jonny, making sure to add: “he’s single by the way,” and offering to personally field the date requests pouring in.

Bennett suggested that establishing new Jewish families is the ideal answer to those who sought to destroy them.

“Our victory over our enemies will not just be in the scourge of hell we unleash against them on the battlefield, but also in the rebuilding of our new lives, the Jewish people, here in the State of Israel,” Bennett wrote. “With optimism, rebuilding a new generation, with faith, growing out of our horrible pain.”