I’d rather not think about how much of my life has been spent watching reality dating shows on television. But I watched the very first season of “The Bachelor,” which aired in 2002, and now it’s like 2021 or something, so anyway, oh my God. My dubious citizenship of Bachelor Nation has expanded to other shows over the years, like “Love Island,” “Millionaire Matchmaker,” and “Married at First Sight” (also special shout-out to MTV’s “Room Raiders,” an incredibly formative show for this elder millennial that left me never looking at a blacklight the same way again). This is all to say: I fancy myself both a critic and connoisseur of the genre, an appreciator of the best and worst of these highly edited, proscriptive, and frustratingly addictive shows. And I’m here to say that HBO Max’s “FBoy Island” is one of, if not the, best.
Here’s how it works: Three lovely ladies live in a villa in the Cayman Islands while 24 men compete for their attention and affection. But of course, there’s a twist!!! Of the men, half of them are self-declared “Nice Guys,” there with the hopes of finding a genuine love connection with one of the women. The other 12 are self-described “FBoys,” as in fuckboys, which my dictionary app defines as “a weak or contemptible man” and “a man who has many casual sexual partners.” The FBoys are there to manipulate their way into the ladies’ hearts with the ultimate goal of winning a $100,000 cash prize. Once the women start eliminating the men, they find out if each came as a Nice Guy or an FBoy. Then the rejected Nice Guys get moved into the Nice Guy Grotto, where they make smoothies, sunbathe, and pour oat milk over their chests (???) while Fboys get sent to Limbro, a squared-off patch of sand where we’re made to believe they sleep on cots and survive off disgusting coconuts.
Many factors combine to make “FBoy Island” truly great, including its very funny host, comedian Nikki Glaser, and a self-awareness rarely seen in shows of this nature. But my favorite part are the FBoys themselves, some of whom are obvious dicks and others that seem to straddle the line between maybe, possibly having real feelings while also being, well, dicks.
And then there’s Israel Dimri. The 34-year-old Israeli entrepreneur doesn’t get a ton of airtime on the show, getting eliminated in the second episode and sent to Limbro after admitting that he came there as an FBoy. But his exit line was one of the most memorable for me: “I am a nice guy, but I do, in my regular life, have sex with a lot of women.” I knew I had to reach out to Israel — who grew up right outside Tel Aviv and currently lives in Los Angeles — and get to the bottom of his Nice Guy/FBoy dichotomy. Within the first minutes of our conversation over Zoom, I learned that Israel first came to the States to talk to Jewish communities about his experience getting injured in the Israeli army, he used to grow weed in Mariposa, and was married for three and a half years. What followed was a wide-ranging conversation about uniting the Jewish people, his own definition of an “FBoy,” his secret political aspirations, and how the show helped him realize what it is he’s truly looking for.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Were you raised with Jewish traditions?
My family is traditional Jewish. It means we observe all the holidays, we do Shabbat dinner every Friday night. But we don’t really observe it in the religious way. We do the Kiddush on Friday night, and then turn on the TV at the same time. Then on Saturday, we go for a trip and drive in the car to the beach. But we do keep the traditions. We bless the food, we bless the wine, we do the Birkat Hamazon at the end of each meal.
The dominant group in the [Israeli] government is the Orthodox. For me, Reform and Conservative, they’re exactly as Jewish as the Orthodox, who think they are the only Jewish ones. It drives me insane. Jews from all over the world, who consider themselves Reform or Conservative, they treat them like shit, or they talk badly about them, like they don’t consider them as Jewish. Who the fuck are you to consider them Jewish or not!? Who gave you the power? Judaism has had a lot of different streams throughout time. I feel like my mission in life is to change the perspective of the people in Israel about the Reform and Conservative Jews, because they deserve to really know about them. They love their brothers and sisters, and they want to be involved. But instead of hugging them and appreciating them — and giving them this love and connection to us in Israel — we push them away? We tell them they are not Jewish? Because there is a certain group who own the idea of “who is a Jew” and if you don’t follow the rules, you’re not Jewish anymore? I don’t accept that.
Where did your family originate from?
My grandparents from my father’s side are from Tunisia. From my mom’s side, they are Turkish and some Greek, too. The origin of all of them is Spain, so they speak Spanish in the house. My mom, my mom’s siblings, all my uncles and aunties — they all speak Ladino, the Jewish dialect of Spanish.
So do you speak any Ladino yourself?
I just know to say to my grandmother, when she asks me “quiero comer?” to just say “yes.” Are you hungry? That’s the only question she asks.
It’s the universal Jewish grandmother question.
Exactly! On this, we are all the same. That’s what I’m saying. We just need to put aside all this division between us and unite ourselves. Our power is in our unity.
What made you want to be on “FBoy Island”?
Nothing, honestly. I got a DM on Instagram from this girl and she was like, “Hey, I found your profile and you look like an interesting person. Would you be interested in joining this new show on HBO?” I was sure it was a scam. And I love when scammers call me, because I drive them crazy. So I’m making fun of it and she’s like, “I see you don’t believe me. Listen, let’s have a phone call and we’ll go from there.” She gave me a call; she liked me even more. Then I start interviewing with the production team and HBO, and I see that this thing is serious. For a month, they disappear. I don’t hear from them, don’t know what’s going on. And then suddenly they text me and say, “OK, be ready. On this day you’re flying to the Cayman Islands.”
Did you have any hesitation about doing a dating reality show like this?
I did have hesitation in the sense of the language barrier. Not with the ladies; I know the ladies will understand me. I go to dates here [in LA] and they know what I’m saying. But I was afraid the people watching at home might have a hard time understanding what I’m saying. Besides that, I didn’t care. I’m very easy-going. I saw it as an experience. I always wanted to be on TV!
How did you feel being labeled an FBoy?
Well, I knew that I would be cast as an FBoy right from the beginning. It wasn’t a surprise. But I don’t necessarily agree with their description of an FBoy.
The way they present it, an FBoy is someone that manipulates women, lies to women, just to have sex with them. Or they have girlfriends and they cheat on them. But I never lie to anyone. I’ve never manipulated women to have sex with them. I’m actually the opposite of that: I’m very straightforward. I’m very, This is the package. You want it, take it. You don’t want it, turn around and leave, it’s all good. I never fight over girls. For me, an FBoy is someone who has a lot of sex, and sex is something very easy for him. And that’s true for me. I did have a lot of sex, and usually, it’s very easy for me to get to the point where I’m having sex. But if you cheat, or if you manipulate a woman, or if you lie to a woman, you’re not an FBoy. You’re an asshole.
What is your definition of a nice guy?
I think a nice guy is someone who has compassion. Someone that knows how to forgive, that doesn’t keep hate for anyone. Who is conscious about the environment and the people surrounding him, and who is very connected to other people and always tries to find a positive way to deal with problems. It’s a conscious person that doesn’t live by his ego.
Exactly. If you are conscious about people, if you are respectful of women and people in general, then you would never lie to women or manipulate them. You can be a nice guy and an Fboy, if you go with my definition. I like people; I try to be as conscious as possible to my environment and to my surrounding. It doesn’t always work, but I work through this stuff and always try to improve myself and grow to become a better human being.
Do you ever want to get married or have a long-term relationship again?
Since I ended my relationship with my ex-wife, I haven’t been in a serious relationship. I didn’t want it, to be honest. But right now? Look, I’m 34. I want to have a family. I love kids; I want to have my kids. I want to raise them and be the best father ever. So I am ready. I can feel it. I don’t really go on dates anymore. I don’t hang out with random women anymore. Surprisingly, it happened to me after I finished filming the show. Just when I got out of the show and came back here to California, I started to pause my dating life. I was like OK, I feel empty. I feel a bit lonely.
Then I went on a vacation with a bunch of friends, and one of them brought his wife and four kids. And I played with the kids the whole weekend! That’s all I did. And I understood that that’s the meaning of life, at the end of the day. Start your family. And I really want it. So I need to change some stuff in my life in order to achieve it. I’m not dating random girls, not having sex as much. I’m building myself to be able to achieve this relationship with my future lover.
So do you think it was your experience on the show that helped you realize you’re ready for that now?
First of all, I was one of the oldest people on the show. So a lot of them are in their mid or early 20s. Just hearing the conversations, the talk about women, it felt like, eh, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. There is nothing new. It’s like Solomon says, [speaks Hebrew]. King Solomon says, “There’s nothing new under the sun. Everything that’s happening has already happened.” So every day was the same thing, and it doesn’t fulfill you that much. One of the reasons I had a lot of sex was that it came from a place where I missed something. I missed that touch and love and connection. And I found that with random women. But I do want to have my own family.
I want that for you, too.
Whenever it needs to happen, it will happen. No pressure, it’s all good.
How do you feel watching the show? Is it weird to watch yourself?
A bit. But I enjoy watching myself. I think I’m very interesting. I want to see more of me!
What’s next for Israel? Do you want to be on TV again?
I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed being on TV. If a new opportunity appeared, I would most definitely consider that. I started to write a TV script about my life, but it’s also about the unity between us. I’ve been working on that for a year now, like a hobby. Eventually I would like to make something out of it. And I started my own company that sells and repairs sliding doors. Besides that, maybe a YouTube channel [featuring] me going around the world and showing all types of sexy lifestyles. Showing people where there are fun, extreme experiences wherever you go. I don’t care about the Colosseum in Rome. But I will show you where the best club is in Rome to have fun, or where you’ll find the hottest guys or girls.
Can I tell you a secret? My real dream, eventually, is to one day be the prime minister of Israel. That’s my real dream. So far we’ve had terrible prime ministers, so easily I could do a better job. Or any other person, basically. People forgot about people. People in government forgot that they’re there to serve us, and it’s not the other way around. There are so many things that drive me insane, that I can’t stand. How come in Israel, you have Holocaust survivors that don’t have food, or can’t afford medical things, or cant afford to use the A/C when it’s 100 degrees outside? They have suffered enough in their life. How come they have to keep suffering in their own country?
Also going back to the Orthodox/Conservative/Reform issue, that drives me insane. There is nothing in the bible that says women are not allowed to wear a yarmulke, or to put on tefillin, or cover themselves with tzitzit. Nowhere does it say that. If they want to do that, they should do that!
The beauty of Judaism is to put doubt on everything. That’s why we’re so innovative. Judaism is built on asking questions. Always ask questions. But I see the opposite of that now. There are so many things I don’t agree with, that I need to change.
If the prime minister thing doesn’t work out, I think you could also be a rabbi.
I definitely couldn’t be a rabbi. I have a problem with rabbis.
A new kind of rabbi! A non-traditional rabbi.
OK, I get it, yes. I’d be into that. I did study the bible a lot. Like, a lot. I still read the bible every day. It’s right here in front of me, literally. [Gets up to grab bible.] Every time I read it, I write questions, and I write my understanding of it. It helps me understand my culture and my ancestry better. Our ancestry.
Is there anything else you want the Alma audience to know about you?
Not about me, because I don’t matter. But I do wish for all the young Jewish people: Don’t be embarrassed of who you are. You are part of a very rich, very deep, very beautiful culture. And it doesn’t matter if you practice the religion, or if you practice the religion in your way or a different way that is not traditional, you’re still a part of this nation. Unite together. Help each other, but not just Jews; help every human being. Show them the compassion, show them the love, show them the understanding that the Jewish nation stands for. Show them the kindness that we stand for.
But don’t be embarrassed or feel ashamed of who you are. Even if they tell you terrible things because of Israel, it’s not your fault. Maybe they are ignorant, or their information is not right. But sometimes, there are a lot of points in the criticisms. Because there is a lot to criticize, and there is nothing wrong about criticizing, or coming with different opinions about stuff. So criticize, come with different opinions, ask questions, provoke everything until you understand it, until you are satisfied. Always keep your mind open to learn more, to grow more, to get more information. And remember, Judaism isn’t only a religion. Judaism is your culture, it’s the language, it’s the holidays, it’s all the values that we stand for. We believe in life. Show that to the world.