Thursday, September 01, 2005

Israel Travel Advisory for Tourists

In stark contrast to the infinite Western world warnings about travel to the (apparent) death and blood thirsty streets of Israel, finally I discover a more realistic but no less worrying warning for tourists. My excitement increases at the realization that an Israeli newspaper itself is covering the danger. Wonders never cease!

Here we have Ynet including two reports in the same Ynet Magazine. One report is positive & encouraging. It details the fairly healthy improvement in hotel room occupancy recently. It is good to see and the truth be told, even here on the ground, one feels the extra vibrancy as a result of the 'Return of the Tourist' coupled with 'less' SUCCESSFUL terrorism. Ben Yehuda & Emek Refiam are witness to new restaurants and you can hear those North American and European accents in increasing numbers. On my family's vacation in the North last week, hotels were brimful with the French, British and others. It felt good and looked good.

But let's not tease ourselves. How ironic that Ynet follows up with this untimely reminder of how dishonest and misleading we can be here in Israel. We want the tourists, (at least most of us do) and yet we do our best (or some of us do) to get every dollar or euro out of them - and then we expect them to come back again next summer to be cheated again, and again and again.
Not overlooking the fact that we shouldn't cheat anyone, it's a damn shame we do it to fellow Jews who make up a large percentage of the tourist numbers and from whom we expect unshakeable political and financial support when they are back in Paris, London or New York.

I've blogged before about the apparent Israeli disregard and disrespect for those who do not speak the local lingo at the pace of your average Israeli. I raise it with participants in my KIC classes for olim (immigrants) at Ulpan Etzion. It's an important ingredient in KIC's educational desire to improve Israeli society while facilitating debate about it.

In my opinion, this whole tourist abuse phenomena is just another symptom of the Israeli fear of friardom - that is, the fear of being considered a sucker. So instead of being a friar and missing out on a buck from the Pom or the Yank or the Kiwi, let's all make sure to take advantage.

There is no quick remedy to this self-inflicted fear, except for our hopeful arrival to a far-distant future Israeli society where terrorism does not rip the heart out of your economy and tourist industry for half a decade and where Israelis pay reasonable taxes and do not have to work so hard to earn the relatively low salaries that most do.

If you are a potential or regular tourist to Israel, there is some small 'consolation' in the face of this friar-dom:
1. What they do to you, they do to me and to each other. The car mechanics do it to us and so do the taxi drivers, the banks, retailers and employers. (Small consolation right?)
2. When it comes down to it, that's Israel and oh how we've learnt to take the bad with the good that Israel offers. Still, it's undeniable, that the Israel experience is truly unique & beautiful and it's not worth missing out on - even at the cost of a broken taxi meter or a special tourist menu.

Keep visiting (and immigrating) so that you can benefit from this Jewish homeland adventure and so that you can still make your valuable contribution to the improvement of this wonderful country and its people.

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