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Analysis: Are Israelis the worst tourists in the world?

Some hotel establishments have an unofficial policy of refusing young Israeli tourists

An Israeli passport in Dubai could lead to higher prices due to the bad behavior of some Israeli tourists.

Luxury car rental companies, for example.

“A client of mine crashed a Bentley into a pole. He was driving at 150 km/h (93 mph) in the middle of town,” said Philippe Sarfati, director of the online travel agency Booknow.co.il.

Only two years ago, the Abraham Accords normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. At that time, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed future tourists of good practices in the Muslim country with strict rules.

Then began the first Tel-Aviv-Dubai flights.

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The Israeli Gil Gurevitch, who owns a kosher restaurant in Dubai, documents extensively on his Instagram account the excesses of his compatriots in the flagship tourist city of the Emirates.

He reports, among other things, that their bad behavior in nightclubs or in shopping centers earned them many fines. And what about those who take stolen towels, hangers, kettles or even lamps from their hotel room?

When the Israeli passes, the rules disappear

Stories like this are legion in the UAE, but not just in the Gulf state.

Wherever the Israeli tourist goes, the rules take a vacation.

From Cyprus to Turkey, via Thailand, Peru, the United Kingdom, India and so many other destinations, the bad reputation of the Israelis almost always catches up with them. So much so that they are ranked as the fifth worst tourist in the world.

“Shameless”, “unruly”, “noisy”, “demanding”, are the words that come up most often to describe them.

How to explain this phenomenon ?

“Israelis have a certain natural sass – their famous chutzpa – which stands out even more when they are abroad, because it is a way of being that often clashes with local norms,” notes Danielle, a 30-year-old Israeli. years old, make-up artist by trade.

She herself does not recognize herself in this attitude, and sometimes goes so far as to hide her nationality when she travels.

“I was recently in Italy, and one day I saw a group of Israelis arrive at the hotel where I was staying. By the time we gave them their rooms they made a mess at reception. Mothers changed their babies on the chairs, while fathers yelled at older children running around. It was nonsense,” she said.

“Israelis have this tendency to behave everywhere as if they were at home. There is a ‘national’ familiarity in Israel which they reproduce abroad. These tourists act as if all the inhabitants of the world are their cousins or their neighbors next door”. “, says Sarfati, pointing out that this is even more true when the destination is cheap, because it attracts more popular classes.

Many Israelis who travel are young people who have just completed their military service. Once rid of the uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces, the latter have only one idea in mind: to escape as far as possible and enjoy their newfound “freedom”. For some of them, the challenge is also to clear their heads, putting aside the traumas experienced during their service.

Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90Tourists enjoy the sunny weekend near the “talking walls” on Israel’s border with Lebanon near Moshav Shtulah on March 6, 2021.

Many of these young people therefore go to India, Thailand or South America for a trip that can last several months, and “enjoy life”.

Problems arise when their conception of pleasure and relaxation – two things they have long been deprived of – leads them to overstep the bounds.

We no longer count the setbacks with the local authorities of young Israelis, often linked to alcohol or drugs, who break the rules of the country.

In Chile and Peru, for example, Israelis have made headlines for starting forest fires, camping in illegal areas, photographing themselves naked at sacred sites or staging an orgy in an archaeological park.

These events are inevitably very badly perceived by the local populations, but also by the Jewish communities of these countries.

Many Jews from very touristic countries complain in particular about the bad image of the nation conveyed by these young people abroad.

Michelle Hites, an active member of the Jewish community in Santiago de Chile, notably wrote an op-ed in Ha’aretz to explain how much she suffered from having to devote her time and energy to defending the reputation of Israelis and Jews in her country, following unfortunate incidents provoked by her co-religionists.

“An Israeli tourist is an ambassador, but without a doubt he does more harm than good to Jewish communities abroad. Israeli tourists, when planning your big trip, please remember that you go back to Israel, but we are the ones to stay and have to deal with the scars you left, and we are tired,” Hites wrote in 2014 for the Israeli newspaper.

What better proof is there that these hotels or hostels in different countries are now closed – more or less officially – to young Israelis.

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90Israeli tourists take a selfie photo along the beach near the old town on the Greek island of Rhodes, April 29, 2016.

Or a pamphlet, published in Goa, India, by a local branch of the Roman Catholic Church, portraying young post-army Israelis as the Achilles’ heel of local tourism?

So much so that some advocate a law prohibiting Israelis from traveling abroad for six months after their military service.

Easier said than done, the culture of travel is so intertwined with Israeli norms. The country’s small size, coupled with a hostile neighborhood, makes Israelis hungry for new horizons. And this restlessness is caught at an early age. It is therefore not uncommon to see Israelis aged 16 or 17 strolling around Greece or Cyprus, two very cheap destinations less than an hour away by plane, which they afford thanks to their odd jobs.

These teenagers are on the go and unsupervised and they largely ignore the basic rules of etiquette – fire extinguisher battles in hotels, watermelon peelings thrown from balconies, burnt furniture or sexual misconduct.

Anxious to denounce this phenomenon, a Facebook account opened in 2015 called “the ugly Israeli”, which invited Internet users to post photos and videos showing reprehensible behavior.

Launched by Israelis aware of the damage caused abroad by this kind of attitude, the group was a resounding success. Since then, the expression “the ugly Israeli” has remained attached to the escapades of Israelis abroad but also in the country.

Unloved but courted tourists

So how do you explain that Israeli tourists are still so courted, as evidenced by the international Mediterranean tourism fair in Tel Aviv, which sees more and more tourist offices and foreign tour operators?

The answer is that they are very good customers for the sector.

As mentioned above, the Israeli, in search of a change of scenery and novelty, travels absolutely everywhere (4.5 million tourists in 2019), and all year round, unlike Europeans for example, who take vacations in the summer and one or two weeks in the winter.

Israeli tourists, on the other hand, fill hotels even during off-peak times. Result: even Japan, where standards of behavior are highly regulated, makes them seem soft.

The other advantage of blue and white travelers is that they spend a lot ($2,219 – about 7,700 shekels – on average per Israeli per year).

“Israelis are bon vivants (someone who enjoys life), who likes to have fun. They don’t close their wallet when they’re abroad, as long as they’likes‘ (enjoy)”, confirms Philipe Sarfati of the travel agency Booknow.co.il.

Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90
Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90Off-duty Israeli soldiers and tourists cool off at the Ein Mokesh spring in the northern Golan Heights, surrounded by two anti-personnel minefields, on August 13, 2021.

Many of them leave with an empty suitcase that they will fill as they go shopping.

“Israeli tourists are on a shopping spree. Their spending amount is several tens of percent higher than European tourists,” said the head of the Polish pavilion at the latest international tourism fair in Tel Aviv.

While it is undeniable that Israelis benefit from a particularly strong shekel, the national culture of living on credit and tashloumim (deferred payments) this is what allows almost everyone to travel, even if it means paying for their holidays in 36 instalments.

Under these conditions, it will be understood that even the Emirates continue to bet on the development of Israeli tourism, while six to eight daily flights from Tel Aviv pour tourists into the country.

Samuel, an Israeli who has been living in Mexico for a few years, confirms that many Mexicans are annoyed by the mentality and behavior of some Israeli tourists, but they take care of it willy-nilly, knowing that they are good customers .

“I regularly hear Mexicans telling me that they have a hard time putting up with the shameless attitude of the Israelis and their mania for haggling over everything, but that doesn’t stop them from smiling at them and even throwing a few words at them in the Hebrew to lure them in. Tourists are their livelihood,” he says.

Ditto in Thailand, a favorite destination for young Israelis. Although the country is aware of the excesses linked to these tourists, the fact remains that many restaurant menus are translated into Hebrew and that Israelis continue to be welcomed there in large numbers,

Is the negative behavior of Israelis when traveling just a reflection of the times?

In any case, this is what certain travel sites and specialized publications claim, according to which these bad practices are not the prerogative of Israelis.

Increasingly common among travellers, and generously relayed on social networks since the appearance of the smartphone, these attitudes are in fact indicative of a broader malaise: that of values ​​that are being lost, of vulgarity that is becoming the norm. and letting go. education, they say.

Whether blue and white tourists are the only ones doing it or not, many observers urge introspection: while Israel is already suffering from international criticism, travelers from the Jewish state must never forget that they are the first ambassadors of their country.