Love in a time of war: Can Tinder, Grindr and kissing selfies ease tensions?

Even as Israeli and Palestinian casualties rise, dating sites offer a unique window on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – with interfaith couples making their voices heard online.

Screenshot from PalesTinder
Excerpt from an exchange on a Middle East dating site.

You’ve probably been told to avoid politics on the first date. Yet singles and couples in the Middle East often can’t steer clear of arguing.

Amidst a renewed bout of violence, some Holy Land bachelors and bachelorettes persist in chatting on dating websites and smartphone apps while others flirt with disaster.

After an Arab-American freelancer uploaded a picture of herself locked in an embrace with her Jewish boyfriend, other interfaith couples followed her lead. “He calls me neshama, I call him habibi,” wrote Sulome Anderson – using the Hebrew word for soul or darling, and the Arabic word for beloved – with their kiss retweeted thousands of times.

“When we started dating we would argue a lot about politics and slowly but surely, we started coming to some consensus,” Ms. Anderson told ABC News about her relationship. “We still argue sometimes, but we're coming closer to understanding each other's perspectives.”

Their Twitter campaign depicting photos of Israeli-Palestinian couples kissing went viral. Entitled #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies, the hashtag unites Arabs and Jews who are weighing on the side of friendship, peace, and even love.

(The hashtag was initially started by an Israeli residing in the U.S, Abraham Gutman, who wrote an op-ed in The Monitor last week and has appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera America).

“I would expect that more people would be reluctant to tweet “Death to Arabs” or to use the hashtag ‘HitlerWasRight” (which was trending on Twitter during the past week) than to label their accounts with a peaceful message,” Gutman wrote.

Some couples tweet to promote interfaith romance - or at least dialogue - during a time of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and Israel. It’s part of a social media campaign to overcome political and ethnic divisions in the midst of war, sprinkled with a bit of irony. 

But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never lies far below the surface of these often anonymous conversations.  On two online matchmaking and casual sex apps – Tinder and Grindr – tempers often flare when users casually flirt with one another.

One new site, PalesTINDER, showcases some of the testy dialogue generated on the hook-up sites. Even when users message a short greeting, the response can be unexpected.

“Come to Ramallah,” texts one resident. “I don’t want to get kill (sic) today,” responds an Israeli, as Israeli citizens are prohibited from visiting Palestinian Authority-governed cities in the West Bank.

“What you doing in Ramallah? You don’t seems (sic) Arabian,” asks another Israeli. “Open sesame,” replies the international.

An American living in the West Bank created the Tumblr blog in order to see how the current hostilities between the two sides affected online hook-up culture.

"It started as my roommate and I were sitting on the couch like, 'Let's see what's happening on Tinder,'" Caitlin Kent, 26, told ABC News last week from Ramallah, where she works at a summer camp.

She describes some of the conversations as "racist," and she decided to post some of her own and her friends interactions so the world can see both the positive and negative. In this case, love (or the prospect of it) isn't conquering all. But it is at least sparking some engagement with words instead of weapons.

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