Love in the Time of Genocide

Lina AbiRafeh
7 min readMay 16, 2024


The author sends out her feeble signal on Tinder

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez writes of love in a political period of illness and war. Love takes the shape of the context, where the lovers are both symbols of, and antidotes to, the world outside. This story is less about love and more about how context shapes what we love, and how that love becomes a reflection of our socio-political moment.

OK love is a big word for what’s to come. Not even lust or like is appropriate. That’s because this piece is about the lowest form of human attraction there is… the quick-fix swipe-fast endless-option black-hole-of-the-soul known as online dating.

I could have called this piece Swipe in the Time of Genocide but it didn’t have the same ring to it.

Anyway, to the point.

I’m an infrequent swiper, and often too busy with the rest of my life to bother. It’s the thing I do when I’ve run out of dark fantasy shows on Netflix. But I’m also a social scientist (meaning: nosy AF) and — like it or not — online dating is a social barometer. It is a measure of what’s important, what we’re thinking, what we care about. It’s a great way to get to know the latest personality trends (I’m fun and easy-going! No drama!) and the latest activities (Yoga! Hiking! Crossfit!).

Swiping patterns, preferences, presentation vary across cities, countries, cultures. It’s a great way to understand people. You’ve got a tiny paragraph to present your best self, your most important little bits, your non-negotiables, and of course your most appealing photos. Does everyone carefully craft their blurb or consciously choose their photos? Of course not. Does everyone care how they present? Oh hell no. Otherwise we would not be subjected to the public-bathroom-with-urinals selfie. But for those who take the time, it’s worth paying attention to what is — and is not — said.

And there’s also a little section where we can add height, education, drinking and smoking prefs, zodiac sign, political leanings, religion. Some of the things that might send us swiping faster in one direction or another. We’d like to date people who are like us, at least in some respects.

Thankfully, I was not in the US when Trump was elected, but I’m sure that was a major online dating turning point. It is still exceedingly common to see profiles that specify No Trump! and Trumpers swipe left! (or right… for those who actually like him?!). I’d be surprised if this was true for other presidents. No Clinton! No Bush! our dating ads in printed newspapers could have said. But I doubt it. The point is, our politics are central to who we are. And now more than ever, they are our dating red lines.

So with that in mind, I conducted a super-informal wildly-amusing non-academic “study” on how we present ourselves online, politically. I’m swiping for men only, which also brings a whole new layer of analysis and challenges. Like the non-negotiable need to find alignment with my feminist views, for starters.

Mind you, I’m not looking for a match or shopping for a date. I’m just checking out the produce with a low level of interest (in a grocery store where, like, the avocados are either squishy mushblobs or little weapons). Meaning, I’m lurking without buying. Mostly because the goods are not appealing.

I’m also old(er), crusty, picky, and not willing to destabilize my hard-won blissful balance. Which makes me a vicious left-swiper for just about anything.

Shirtless at the gym? Left.
Polyamorous? Left.
Smoker? Left.
Fish-pic? Left.
Bad grammar? Left.
Vegan? Left.
Selfie in car? Left.
Married-but-discreet? Left.
Apolitical? Left. (I will one day write a blog on what I think that really means… standby!)
Photo wearing nothing but a diaper? LEFT. (No, I’m not making that up.)

And on and on I go. I blame my carpal tunnel and budding arthritis on my aggressive left-swiping habits.

Even in Love in the Time of Cholera, the character Fermina tells her suitor: “Very well, I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.” We all have our preferences.

I also swipe left on religion. ANY religion. ALL religion. I’m a non-believer. That stuff is just not my thing. That’s why NY dating has — or had — options for me. Once I got past the public bathroom photos and the paragraph dedicated to what my body should look like, of course.

Looking for a woman who is slender! Slim! Fit! Height-weight-proportionate! Looks good in leggings! (Not making that up either. And yes, there’s a blog brewing on this subject too!).

But I digress. The thing is, when I moved to NY in 2019, most profiles did not list any religion, or if they did, it was atheist or agnostic. Public or practiced religion was just not New-Yorky. We’re liberal! Progressive! Religion is… passé. Or such was the face we presented.

In 2020, we still didn’t list religion. Instead we said vaxxed. Our politics presented themselves there too. We still said No Trumpies. But the religion option was seldom present.

In late 2023, things changed. I went back online in an attempt to swap late-night doom-scrolling for dude-scrolling. Both were equally depressing.

But what I noticed surprised me — although perhaps it shouldn’t have. Suddenly, an overwhelming number of the profiles were Jewish. It was a notable change. And I didn’t see more Muslims or Christians. At least not in New York.

I asked my girl gang — specifically the single women savvy swipers — if they’d noticed a difference.

“Absolutely yes!” one of them said. “Since October 7, there is a clear shift with more people now explicitly saying Jewish, and also if they support Israel.”

Another agreed, adding: “I haven’t noticed this among other religions so it’s purely related to the current situation.”

Is this a resurgence of religion? Are we all tired of being faithless heathens and now looking for God’s good guidance? Do we need a bit of sacred text to tell us how to be decent people? I think not.

There’s a social change happening. Listen, people are welcome to be — and to state — whatever religion they want. I still swipe left for all religions, but that’s my personal preference. The point is that there’s a difference between pre- and post-October swiping. We have changed. Politics is, er, penetrating, our profiles.

I even started to see Israeli flags, proclamations of support, and identifications with Zionism. Proud Zionist! Ardent Zionist! I’ve seen more than a few times. In response, I added Palestinian and Lebanese flags to my profile. Firstly, because that is where I’m from. And also because now, for me, these places are more important than ever. And they provide a (hopefully) clear indication of my politics.

My theory here is that most men do not read our profiles. I think their decisions are mostly visual, with would-I-fuck-her as the guiding question. (Yes, will blog on that one too. Eventually.)

My point is… would they notice my tiny flags and my supersize politics? I hoped so — but wasn’t sure. I was seeing nearly no Palestinian flags, no watermelons, nothing. But that was Bumble and Tinder.

Someone told me that Hinge now offers a prompt that can be added to profiles saying “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page about Palestine…” Great idea, as it would save me a lot of time, and make my speedy swiping that much swifter.

I won’t ever ever date a Trumper. And I won’t ever ever date a Zionist. It’s pretty simple for me.

Some self-proclaimed Zionists online have even added military photos from their time in the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). I swipe left on any photo in military attire, from any country, at any time. I’m just not interested in your time spent serving the war machine. But to have served in the IOF is a whole different level of rapid-left-swipe.

Meanwhile, it seems that for some, the opposite is also true. Like this article that says Tinder and Hinge “are swamped with anti-Zionism.” That has not been my experience at all, but I also think this could be due to my age category. I’m swiping in my age group, namely — the oldies.

The passion for — or against — Palestine as dating criteria is perhaps playing out more visibly with younger generations.

“People are clinging more strongly to religion as an indicator of their political stance, their non-negotiables,” another friend added.

“We started to see this with Trump,” she confirmed. “That’s been the defining line. Any other view or personality is fair game, but pro- or anti-Trump became the great dating divide. Don’t even swipe on me if you support him… I am not going to bed with a Trumper!”

Another swiper explained that this “shows a shift in people becoming more true to what they stand for rather than trying to hide it and let it come out a few dates later…”

“Online dating really is a democratizing process,” said one politically active friend, “even as we see the way all these biases fit with discomfort in that democracy, revealing the fault lines in our society.”

She’s right. We learn about who we all are through these processes. There’s something wonderful and important here as well, in the way it brings people together across those lines.

In the end, none of this is about being Jewish. Or Muslim. Or whatever we may be. I do not like organized religion of any kind. Just like I’d not be able to date someone who is a big drinker, a boring eater, a gym-dweller, a dog-hater. (No dog moms! One guy actually said. True story.)

Would I date a guy in search of a “trad wife”? Or a guy who is pro-life? Or who wants to debate whether or not the gender wage gap is “real”? (Another true story.)

Hell no, I would not. These things are not for me. And my politics… that’s central to who I am. Feminism. Palestine. Not negotiable.

I’m hoping my flags get some visibility. But I could also add a prompt that asks where they think hummus is from. That’s a clue, too.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue swiping for social science. But also for social justice.



Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights activist, author, speaker, aid worker with 3 decades of global experience - and lots to say! More on my website: