The summer of 2011 wasn’t the greatest time for Elias Terman to go to Israel, as he was only several months into a new job.
Terman, 44, prefers setting his own agenda and traveling with close friends; the idea of a trip with a pre-set itinerary on a tour bus full of strangers, well, to say it wasn’t his ideal vacation is an understatement.
But Tanya Kaminsky-Bernstein was persistent, “relentless,” even, Terman recalled. The president of the Young Adults Division of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation had spaces on the mission to fill, and she saw Terman, the marketing executive at a software company, as a good candidate.
The San Francisco resident, who grew up in Irvine and lived in Mexico City when he was in his 20s, had never been to Israel.
“Besides,” she told him, “there are some quality single men and women coming. You may meet someone.”
One of those quality single women was her friend Diana Gilbert, with whom she used the same ploy.
Gilbert, 38, a strategy consultant for Wells Fargo, had gone on a six-week trip to Israel in her teens, and then studied there for her junior year abroad in college, but hadn’t been back since. Though the Mill Valley native also had misgivings about the timing, she liked the idea that Kaminsky-Bernstein was going on the trip too.
At a brunch for trip participants two weeks before departure, Terman noticed Gilbert in the room. One look at her smile, and “instantly, I thought I want to go out with this woman,” he recalled.
This wasn’t the first time the thought crossed his mind. He’d seen her on JDate six months earlier and sent her a message. But she was busy and his overture went unanswered.
The brunch was scheduled to coincide with Israel in the Gardens in San Francisco, so a group of trip participants walked over there afterwards. Gilbert ran into family friend Liki Abrams, who gave Terman the once-over and mouthed something like “Nu? He’s cute,” when his back was turned.
After spending most of the day with Gilbert, Terman wanted to see her again — soon.
One date was safe, but two was enough to know you don’t like someone, she reasoned, and if that happened, it would make the trip completely awkward. She agreed to one date, but then got sick.
She did email him from her JDate account that night, however, finally answering his long-ago message.
The next time they saw each other was in Israel, the afternoon before the official start of the trip. A group of participants met up on the beach in Tel Aviv; Terman found Gilbert and they ended up going for a swim in the sea. She immediately noticed his confidence, which he attributed to the fact that he felt completely comfortable with her.
The kick-off dinner the next night was held on a hotel terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. Afterward, Terman decided they should kiss.
Gilbert thought otherwise. “I was very cautious,” she said, explaining that she couldn’t help but think that if things went south in their relationship it would ruin the rest of the trip for them. Also, she reasoned, “It was his first time there. I had all sorts of ideas of what he should do, like date an Israeli woman. I was thinking that I’m going to be here when he gets home.”
Terman didn’t care what Gilbert thought. Calling himself totally “smitten,” he wanted to kiss her, and he did.
From then on, they were “joined at the hip the whole time,” Terman said. “Being able to raft down the Jordan River or climb Masada, it was that much more fun and exciting to experience it through the lens of this incredible romance we were having.”
The San Francisco couple moved in together a year later, and by the end of 2012, a proposal was in the works. While choosing a custom ring was a collaborative effort, Terman surprised Gilbert by picking it up before she expected it to be ready, taking her for a romantic dinner, and dropping to one knee before dessert.
“I thought he was coming over to tell me something in my ear, it was so surreal,” she said.
The ring was much too small, but in her excitement — and not wanting to disappoint Terman — she forced it onto her finger, which meant no champagne toast; the evening ended early, with Gilbert’s finger throbbing and turning blue and concerned diners telling her she needed to go to the ER.
Instead, the couple quickly paid the check and walked to their apartment, where Terman cut off the ring with a pair of industrial wire cutters — “definitely a buzz kill,” he joked.
The ring was repaired way before their wedding this past September at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon. Rabbi Lee Bycel, a cousin of the groom, officiated.
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