Every night last week, young couples were scattered around the lobby of my hotel, engrossed in conversations. Their fashion choices were remarkably consistent. Her: Ankle-length skirt and a fashionable but loose-fitting sweater with the neckline at the, well, neck, her own long hair visible and usually tied back in a ponytail. Him: Black suit, white shirt, tie optional, large black fedora resting upside down on the coffee table or armchair separating them. Words were exchanged softly in Hebrew and/or English, body language betraying the seriousness of purpose. Not a hint of physical contact between them.
On the first night I thought the collection of couples was just a coincidence, but by the second or third night it was clear that this was some form of high stakes, Haredi speed dating. Most likely arranged by families, probably with professional assistance and guidance. It is as hard to fathom that this unprepossessing hotel lobby houses dozens of these weighty conversations every week as it is to imagine choosing a lifelong partner based on one of them. If a gray-bearded Chuck Woolery was there, waiting in the wings to debrief, I did not see him.