Yael Levy, 32, Herzliya
They live in different places in Israel, pursue different occupations, come from different family backgrounds and are at different stages of their lives. Yotam Feldman?s portrait of eight women − all named Yael Levy.
Scene I: Queen of the class
"We were the three queens of the class," Yael relates, "and of the three, I was the leader." She adds: "Being accepted is a matter of looks, of dominant behavior, of self-confidence, which I don't lack. It was obvious from my first minute in kindergarten and it's accompanied me ever since."
In the fifth grade, Yael organized a boycott of one of the girls in the class. "She was an irritating girl. There are kids like that, unpleasant. Her mother was a lawyer, she was a good student and her behavior was pompous. I had the feeling that the teacher preferred her - she wasn't smart about her behavior - if she'd been smart her situation would have been different."
Levy asked all her classmates not to talk to the girl in class, at recess, even after school. Everyone did as she said and the girl's isolation was absolute. "There was a kind of imperative that it was forbidden to talk to her. You don't approach her, don't invite her to parties, she sits by herself during recess."
Nor did Levy lift the boycott even after the teacher asked her mother to come in for a talk in which she reprimanded her. She didn't call off the boycott until a week later, at her own initiative. Looking back, she doesn't think she was a cruel girl. "I was actually merciful, with a highly developed sense of justice, but because of the way that girl behaved I didn't think there was room for compassion. I haven't seen her since school, but I suppose she is still irritating. There are things that stay with people their whole lives, like the way people look at me and want to be like me."
Scene II: JDate
Since she was 29, Levy - who studied physical education after her army service and now teaches dancing to elderly people - has gone out with about 300 men whom she met via JDate, an Internet site. Her on-site profile states that she is looking for "marriage and children" and that she is an "energetic type who engages in sports." Also that she is "a feminist with a chauvinist background" and that she "believes in equality but not absolute." Levy explains: "I believe that the woman should raise the children and the man should provide. That said, the woman has to be independent, not dependent on her man." She gets about 700 messages a month from men, but dates few of them.
"The first filter is if there is a photograph," she explains. "Anyone who doesn't send a photo immediately goes in the trash, and also if the photos are not clear. It's not my problem that they are shy; I expect that just as I posted current photos from a maximum number of angles, the men will do likewise." The second filter is smoker / nonsmoker. Smokers have no chance. Afterward, Yael checks the prospects' preferred leisure-time activities and political views. "I am moderate right, but I don't think it would work out with men who are true left, because it seems to me that the basic outlook is different; it's a personality thing." Age, though, is a less critical criterion. "As far as I'm concerned, he can be up to 100. The older he is, the more points he has in his favor. Most of the men I've been with are 15-20 years older than I am. I believe that older people know about life and are more interesting."
Sometimes, to save time, she and the man agree in advance that if one of the sides is not interested, he/she will say so immediately, so they won't waste each other's time. Levy has forgone many men like that, but only one has forgone her.
Many other times she has been compelled to spend time with men whom she knew immediately were of no interest to her. "There is no need to sit for half an hour with someone you don't want to be with. Sometimes I know that I have to spend 10 minutes with him before leaving, so I find a way to pass that time. Either I interview him about his life or we just tell stories, and sometimes I make up all kinds of things about myself." She has raised the art of conversation to such a high level, she says, that many times men she is not interested in think there will be a follow-up meeting. "They call me later," she says, "and are surprised to discover that I don't want to see them again."