Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Unmentionables

IS THERE ANYTHING positive I can say about Israelis? Not really. It seems that the only time you hear about them it’s because they’ve stolen some more Arab land, bulldozed some innocent people’s houses, stormed a ship in international waters and shot dead unarmed Greek students, sent their Mossad agents to murder terror suspects in foreign countries (sometimes killing the wrong men) or gunned down Palestinian kids who’ve thrown stones at their armoured cars. So, no...I don’t think I have anything positive to say about them. And before anyone thinks I’m being racist, I’m not: I’m talking about Israelis, not Jews. I know plenty of Jewish people in London, and there is no way they could be tarred with the Unmentionable brush. The Israelis are truly a breed apart from any other traveller you are likely to meet.

The Unmentionables travel in packs, and don’t mix. In fact, the most you’ll likely get is a dirty look if you happen to arrive at a hostel they’ve taken over. According to Guatemalans I’ve spoken to, one of whom spoke Hebrew and listened in frequently, their modus operandi is to establish themselves in a place, and then start haggling and making unreasonable demands which the owner can’t refuse without losing money if they all move out at once. In Coban, our hostel owner told us that they’d complained there was no kitchen for them to use. After snooping around, one of them came to him and pointed out that there was a kitchen at the back of the property. The owner said that this was his mother’s, but was bullied into letting them use it. His poor mother had to put up with being barged out of her own space when they took over to cook dinner. Charming.

I’ve seen some appalling incidents over the course of the last few years. In Saigon, I was in a cafe where around ten Unmentionables had commandeered half of it. The old Vietnamese lady serving got one of the meals wrong, which drove one of the Israeli girls into a rage. She waved the old woman away, and her dismissive hand caught the edge of the bowl, sending the noodles over the waitress. I was disgusted, as were several open-mouthed diners.

We arrived in Lanquin late one evening, and drove slowly down the hill into the village. On the way we were met with scowls and hard stares from some of the locals sat by the side of the road. Kneehead remarked that the place didn’t look too friendly. I replied that it looked downright hostile to me. It wasn’t long before we found out why. I’d put it down simply to resentment at rich Westerners visiting, but a local told me a different story. The place was crawling with Unmentionables, likely because it was one of the cheaper places in Guatemala. Antigua is the most expensive town in the country, and doesn’t see many of them. Probably explains why I’ve spent almost three weeks here? The local lad told me they were rude, haggled aggressively, and were disrespectful to his people. Within a day, we saw this in practice.

We’d spent the sunset at the mouth of the caves at Lanquin, waiting for the bats to exit for the nocturnal hunt. I’d found it hilarious as Kneehead cowered in near-terror as the bats flapped past his face, and lost count of the times he said the words “I think this is a really bad idea.” We headed back to the village, smelling fusty and with footwear encrusted in thick bat-shit. Nasty. A couple of New Yorkers tagged along for dinner, and we found a popular local restaurant. For around £3 each, we were fed a delicious chicken dinner with all the trimmings. As we ate, there was a commotion developing between the lady owner and a couple of Unmentionables sitting in a corner. Kneehead, having the better Spanish of us, earwigged on the conversation. He shook his head disgustedly and told us they were disputing the price of the food after they’d eaten it. Pigs.

Heading for Coban the next day, we discovered the same pair on our shuttle bus. The fare to the town is a standard Q30; a decent price for a two hour drive, at around £2.50. On reaching our destination, the conductor scrambled up on top of the minibus for our packs. The male Unmentionable questioned the fare, and said he would pay Q20. The conductor looked at me and Kneehead. I shrugged. As we were shouldering our packs, the debate raged back and forth. The Guatemalan appeared to back down “OK...OK...is 20 Quetzales for the ride...” and the Unmentionables looked triumphant “...and 10 Quetzales to get your bags back.” Checkmate. Guatemala 1-0 Israel. As we walked off, I cast a grin at the man on the roof, and he winked back.

A lack of manners was on display on the bus to Antigua from Coban. Three young female Unmentionables were hogging the back seats of the bus with their bags. As we waited to climb in, they were looking down their noses at myself and the Bognors. Nicola was distinctly unimpressed with their looking her up and down. A few hours into the journey, we stopped at a gas station and bought some snacks. An older American named Pete was first in the queue, the rest of us behind him. One of the Israeli girls sidled up next to Pete, blatantly pushing in and, a few minutes later her friends joined her. “Don’t mind us, we’ll just queue here for nothing” I muttered. They didn’t bat an eyelid. The arrogance of it. I was more annoyed with myself later for no saying anything, merely fuming in the bus for an hour; always better to get it off your chest. Especially where rude bastard Israelis are concerned.

On getting off the bus, I was set to walk with an American named Laura, as she had a decent hostel in mind. The Unmentionables had been asking her where she was staying, but were still on the bus as it drove away. I breathed a sigh of relief, and told her that if they’d joined her I’d have walked in the opposite direction. She said “Oh, I love the Israelis...” and before I could recover my jaw from the ground “...they make us Americans look polite.” So it’s not just me that thinks this way.

To be fair, I won’t tag all Israeli backpackers as Unmentionables. I met a lovely couple in Tulum; but I can’t consider them backpackers anyway, considering the stunning Efrat had 20 bikinis in one suitcase. With a body like hers, I can’t blame her, either. Her boyfriend, faux-Italian “Fabio”, was impossible to dislike...despite looking like Gael Garcia-Bernal and having a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend in tow. I spent some time in Thailand with an Israeli lad travelling with a Canadian flag on his pack; he said he was ashamed of some of his countrymen and their behaviour, so sought to distance himself. I’d laughed and said I hadn’t met many wiry, olive-skinned Canadians with curly black hair. There was also a couple of affable musicians on a night boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, who were very nice lads. They're certainly not all bad.

The rule of thumb seems to be that if you meet an Israeli travelling alone, or as a couple, they are generally nice people. But in groups, they have this post-national service mentality that the world is against them; they need to stick together and not trust outsiders. That’s clearly not the case. One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, finding out more about their culture, and having a bloody good laugh with them. It is certainly not about travelling a poor country and squeezing every last penny out of the impoverished locals, just so you can travel for longer. By doing that, you only make things difficult for your compatriots who follow. I’ve seen the way the locals’ attitude changed in Lanquin as soon as they find out your country of origin. “English...always tips me” a smiling Guatemalan told me. Be nice, give a little extra where it’s due...and you’re going to get a lot more back.

Fabio and Efrat invited me to Israel as we left Tulum. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d fit in. I’d love to see the pair of them again; but I think that, certainly after this article, I’d be assured of a warmer welcome in Palestine or Syria.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(And this fellow (Jewish, too) seems to concur)

59 comments:

pat said...

I COULDN'T AGREE WITH YOU MORE. I HAVE HAD MANY SIMILAR ENCOUNTERS WITH THESE RUDE, ARROGANT PLASTIC RASTAS THROUGHOUT MY TRAVELS OF THE WORLD. INDIA (GOA) UNDOUBTEDLY BEING THE WORSE.

Jon Boy

scott said...

you daft racist.

old8oy said...

Cheers, Scotty. Did you get home from Berlin OK? That was a drinking session and a half.

Jon Boy...a pint is well overdue. Summer 2012.

http://www.orchiddesigns.net/ArticlesJewish/Oped_Israeli_backpackers.html

Someone else agrees with me.

coralie said...

Yup, you seldom meet lonely Israelis and those couldn't agree more with you...

old8oy said...

The lad I met in Thailand with the Canadian flag was great. He told me as many Rude Israeli tales as I told him.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're definitely not racist at all, you're just stereotyping a large group of people in a very mean way, based on some political predisposition and very limited information. I'm a Jewish Israeli woman and I was deeply offended by your words.
Your very first paragraph already shows your negative disposition. I won't argue with your political views, I'll only mention that you also hear about Israeli Technology and Israeli inventions in the news, and you must also sometimes hear about Israel and Israelies being attacked - so just bear in mind there are two sides to every story. Surely you understand that as a British person, you can never hope to criticize the Israeli regime without being a terrible hypocrite. British rule over India and Ireland weren't less problematic, and weren't that long ago. So unless you learn a bit more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you should probably shut up a bit about it.
But most of your article was about Israeli tourists abroad, specifically - 21 yrs old Israeli backpackers. Of course, you made statements about all Israelis, admitting some possible exceptions, giving the whole article a terrible racist overtone. But you see, had my only perception of British culture been from going to pubs where low-income soccer fans meet, I'd probably think very bad things about Brits. I assure you many French, German, American tourists behave appallingly. You must admit your view of Israelis is through a very thin prism, and you can not possible make such terrible accusations as you've made. You must accept the possibility that the backpackers you're met are the exceptions. You must also consider the fact that the traveling Israelis obviously have far less funding than you do. It's unfair of you to judge 21 yr old ex-soldiers (who've spend three years serving their country, perhaps risking death, for virtually no pay, which I'm pretty sure you've never done), who haggle over prices. What do teenagers and 20-somethings with no money from mid-to-low-income families do in Britain before they start their adult life or study? Oh, nothing? I, for one, think that it's awesome that Israelis like to travel and see the world, and wish more people around the world would do it. I'm sure your precious complaining Guatemalian inkeeps and waitresses still appreciate the business that comes from Israeli tourists and don't just learn Hebrew and make discounts for Israelis for the fun of it. Perhaps it is better for an owner of an inn to accommodate the loud and uncivilized haggling Israelis, because he knows if he does, he'll have business constantly and feed his kids?
Anyway, I've already written too much. Point is, it's apparent from your writing you don't know the first thing about Israeli culture and people, so you probably shouldn't write about it at all, let alone so harshly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're definitely not racist at all, you're just stereotyping a large group of people in a very mean way, based on some political predisposition and very limited information. I'm a Jewish Israeli woman and I was deeply offended by your words.
Your very first paragraph already shows your negative disposition. I won't argue with your political views, I'll only mention that you also hear about Israeli Technology and Israeli inventions in the news, and you must also sometimes hear about Israel and Israelies being attacked - so just bear in mind there are two sides to every story. Surely you understand that as a British person, you can never hope to criticize the Israeli regime without being a terrible hypocrite. British rule over India and Ireland weren't less problematic, and weren't that long ago. So unless you learn a bit more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you should probably shut up a bit about it.
But most of your article was about Israeli tourists abroad, specifically - 21 yrs old Israeli backpackers. Of course, you made statements about all Israelis, admitting some possible exceptions, giving the whole article a terrible racist overtone. But you see, had my only perception of British culture been from going to pubs where low-income soccer fans meet, I'd probably think very bad things about Brits. I assure you many French, German, American tourists behave appallingly. You must admit your view of Israelis is through a very thin prism, and you can not possible make such terrible accusations as you've made. You must accept the possibility that the backpackers you're met are the exceptions. You must also consider the fact that the traveling Israelis obviously have far less funding than you do. It's unfair of you to judge 21 yr old ex-soldiers (who've spend three years serving their country, perhaps risking death, for virtually no pay, which I'm pretty sure you've never done), who haggle over prices. What do teenagers and 20-somethings with no money from mid-to-low-income families do in Britain before they start their adult life or study? Oh, nothing? I, for one, think that it's awesome that Israelis like to travel and see the world, and wish more people around the world would do it. I'm sure your precious complaining Guatemalian inkeeps and waitresses still appreciate the business that comes from Israeli tourists and don't just learn Hebrew and make discounts for Israelis for the fun of it. Perhaps it is better for an owner of an inn to accommodate the loud and uncivilized haggling Israelis, because he knows if he does, he'll have business constantly and feed his kids?
Anyway, I've already written too much. Point is, it's apparent from your writing you don't know the first thing about Israeli culture and people, so you probably shouldn't write about it at all, let alone so harshly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're definitely not racist at all, you're just stereotyping a large group of people in a very mean way, based on some political predisposition and very limited information. I'm a Jewish Israeli woman and I was deeply offended by your words.
Your very first paragraph already shows your negative disposition. I won't argue with your political views, I'll only mention that you also hear about Israeli Technology and Israeli inventions in the news, and you must also sometimes hear about Israel and Israelies being attacked - so just bear in mind there are two sides to every story. Surely you understand that as a British person, you can never hope to criticize the Israeli regime without being a terrible hypocrite. British rule over India and Ireland weren't less problematic, and weren't that long ago. So unless you learn a bit more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you should probably shut up a bit about it.
But most of your article was about Israeli tourists abroad, specifically - 21 yrs old Israeli backpackers. Of course, you made statements about all Israelis, admitting some possible exceptions, giving the whole article a terrible racist overtone. But you see, had my only perception of British culture been from going to pubs where low-income soccer fans meet, I'd probably think very bad things about Brits. I assure you many French, German, American tourists behave appallingly. You must admit your view of Israelis is through a very thin prism, and you can not possible make such terrible accusations as you've made. You must accept the possibility that the backpackers you're met are the exceptions. You must also consider the fact that the traveling Israelis obviously have far less funding than you do. It's unfair of you to judge 21 yr old ex-soldiers (who've spend three years serving their country, perhaps risking death, for virtually no pay, which I'm pretty sure you've never done), who haggle over prices. What do teenagers and 20-somethings with no money from mid-to-low-income families do in Britain before they start their adult life or study? Oh, nothing? I, for one, think that it's awesome that Israelis like to travel and see the world, and wish more people around the world would do it. I'm sure your precious complaining Guatemalian inkeeps and waitresses still appreciate the business that comes from Israeli tourists and don't just learn Hebrew and make discounts for Israelis for the fun of it. Perhaps it is better for an owner of an inn to accommodate the loud and uncivilized haggling Israelis, because he knows if he does, he'll have business constantly and feed his kids?
Anyway, I've already written too much. Point is, it's apparent from your writing you don't know the first thing about Israeli culture and people, so you probably shouldn't write about it at all, let alone so harshly.

old8oy said...

I've spent two and a half years and yes, I can only base my opinions on the Israelis I've come across. I've met a handful of decent ones, always travelling alone.

You say these ex-soldiers are travelling with far less money than us? So you're saying that all Westerners are rich? I'm not alone in the sweeping generalisations, it seems. If you don't have as much money to travel...travel for a shorter length of time. The amount of times I witnessed Israelis haggling down the very last peso made my blood boil. It's one thing to barter, another to take the bread out of a desperate man's mouth.

And British kids do nothing before University? Again, another sweeping generalisation from yourself. There are plenty of them out in Afghanistan and Iraq protecting British, American and therefore Israeli interests?

I can assure you that I've read plenty of books on the situation in the Middle East, and know plenty about your foreign policy. You are the bullies of the region. And did Mossad assassinate the wrong man on foreign soil? Did Israeli troops kill students on a peace mission in International waters? Do the Israelis bulldoze Palestinian homes and steal land? Yes, the Palestinians throw a few outdated rockets back your way, but with the might of America behind you, they are pissing in the wind. I'd recommend "Six Days" by Jeremy Bowen and "Critical Turning Points In The Middle East" by Nayef Al-Rhodan.

Now. The British behave badly abroad in Greece and Spain. I avoid those places because that element of my countrymen embarrass me...as should your bunch of cheapskate travelling killers embarrass you. If you don't believe that they're so bad, just Google "Israeli backpacker". I am not alone on this one...there is a wealth of stuff on the web about their universal unpopularity.

And have the guts to post with your name next time, Miss Anonymous?



old8oy said...

http://www.thingsihateaboutbackpacking.com/?p=875

old8oy said...

And why don't the Israelis mix with other travellers instead of travelling in large groups, taking over hostels and being aggressive? I witnessed a Dutchman trying to chat up an attractive (single) Israeli girl in a bar, only to almost get his head kicked in by some Israeli apes who took offence to a potential mixing of the races.

You really don't do yourselves any favours, believe me.

old8oy said...

Please write to Lonely Planet and accuse them of racism too, please? Thank you.

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3310

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps you're not racist per se, since nationality isn't a race, but you do practice the same principals.

You generalize, and consider a whole cultural group / nation as being inferior to yours.
This assumption does not come from your traveling experience alone, since right off the start you mention that "IS THERE ANYTHING positive I can say about Israelis? Not really" and continue on to describe completely unrelated matters to your post subject. Looks like you're prejudiced.

Writing something like "To be fair, I won’t tag all Israeli backpackers as Unmentionables" just makes it worse. It's just like saying something racist and then add "Hey, some black people are okay!!!". Yuk.

However, even if you're not *exactly* racist, and even if you're not rude and always tip your host, there's one thing you are, and that's a chauvinist.
I mean, when you do finally portray an Israeli woman you liked, all you can talk about is her body. When you mention her boyfriend, his virtue is having a hot woman following him around. Come on!

The other guy you liked had to earn your authorization by hating his own people and telling you "rude Israeli tales", thus setting himself apart as a "good Israeli".
Yeah, I changed my mind. You are racist.

Don't get me wrong. I'm familiar with the phenomenon, both in and out of Israel. But there are ways to address it without such obvious hatred and bias.

old8oy said...

http://www.jewlicious.com/2006/05/to-the-israeli-backpacker/

old8oy said...

Take the chip off your shoulder. Inferiority complex? Siege mentality, more like.

Why is saying a woman is stunning a chauvanistic comment? She looked good and she knew it...would you rather she wore a burkha? I said Tom was very good-looking...does that make me a chauvanist in your eyes...or a homosexual?

The lad I met in Thailand didn't "hate" his own people...try reading the article properly and not twisting my words to support your own argument? Can't expect more when your countrymen are twisting the truth to support their oppression of the Arabs though, I suppose.

My girlfriend finds my blog amusing. She has a sense of humour. Looks good in a bikini, too. I'm letting the racist side down, though: she's Mexican, and likely a lot darker-skinned than you.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about?
You're making assumptions again...

1. Yes, I was born in Israel. I don't live there anymore, though, and never been in the army. You might wanna drop the military references.

2. Only referring to a woman's appearance and whether she's hot or not (especially when it has nothing to do with the subject) - yes, that's chauvinistic.

3. I'm sure your girlfriend is darker skinned than I, Mexican or not, since my complexion is the whitest on the scale. Honestly, do you even know anything about Israelis? That sounds like another racist, not to mention ignorant, comment.

"Israeli ape"?
Yeah, not racist at all...

old8oy said...

1. So...lacking any personal experiences yourself of the Middle-East conflict, you deride me for commenting? Un-be-lievable...

2. male chauvinist
n.
A man whose behaviour and attitude toward women indicate a belief that they are innately inferior to men.

I simply said she was stunning. Therefore the above does not apply to me. Do you look that bad in a bikini that my comments annoyed you? If I had said something along the lines of "she had great tits", "what an arse" or "I'd loved to have had sex with her" then you could have accused me of male chauvinism. As it is, you don't have a leg to stand on.

We were on a beach. She was in a bikini all day. She looked amazing. Relevant. And the comment was linked to the fact that we expressed shock at the fact Tom was carrying 20 of her bikinis in his backpack. Relevant.

3. I doubt you're the whitest on the scale. Go visit Ireland or Iceland.

The Israeli ape comment was nothing to do with race. It is to do with a muscular man who struts about intimidating people, and threatens to beat up another man for wanting to pollute the bloodline. And you talk about ME making assumptions?

You seem to cherry-pick the comments to suit your argument. "The rule of thumb seems to be that if you meet an Israeli travelling alone, or as a couple, they are generally nice people. But in groups, they have this post-national service mentality that the world is against them; they need to stick together and not trust outsiders."

You're not all bad. I said it myself. But a lot of the Israeli backpackers get you a bad rep.



Anonymous said...

Man, you're such a delusional person. Of course you know nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You're too far leftist and I won't waste my time to convince you otherwise.

In a way the anonymous Israeli woman gave you the true picture of those young travelers, but you keep on looking for the "best euro politeness and manners".

Man, I've seen you Brits acting like barbaric drunken human trash all over the world, including in America. I've seen you fighting, cursing, drinking and fucking all over the place. Not to mention the Germans or South Americans.

It's all about being young dear. Your kind is not better than the Israeli youngsters. I know how they behave; I know why they do it, and still, I think they are awesome to travel with. We Israelis do not come in one shape, since you're ignorant and maybe racist, you should know that we come in all colors and races. Some of us are dark with olive skin, some of us are pure blond, some are Asians and some Africans. This is the Israeli beauty; we came from 140 different countries and cultures.

Yea of course some of us are rude and impatient and know how to bargain or how to make a mess wherever we go on traveling, but we do know how to have fun and how to be even friendlier with the local population than you euro snobs.

So take your white ass and come and visit us. Don't worry, we don't eat humans, it ain't kosher you know. I can assure you that you're gonna have fun with us, Israeli apes :)

Ohad

old8oy said...

Know how to bargain? Did you read in my article where one of them ate the food and THEN bargained? That's not haggling, that's robbery.

The main problem I have with the Israeli backpacker is the pack mentality: they don't mix.

You say I'm delusional and know nothing about the conflict? I've read plenty, my friend. And if being Left means I protest at illegal assassinations in sovereign countries, nuclear weapons, Palestinian homes being bulldozed, illegal Israeli settlements and students being killed in International waters...then yeah, I'm Left.

You only know what your own government and media tell you. Do you think they don't lie?

Wakey wakey...

Anonymous said...

So now what? You want to impute a whole crowd? Race? Country? What good will it do?
Are you thinking about yourself wanting to travel without unmentionables (another racist generaliIng expression)or the poor innkeepers of wherever?
Anonymous wrote perfectly about many of your pointless racist so I won't write it again but do you know what it's like to bombed every day and need to run for cover or hit the floor in 10 to 60 sec notice 20 times a day? Oh you don't because you live in a safe place. No one wants you dead or out of your house. Maybe that is why many israely youngsters like to travel, they need the break.
you sit there comfortably in Mexico and criticize other people for their behavior why not just do something better about what bothers you? Become a travel guide that teach manners or something.
Oh and if you want to travel to Palestine or Syria maybe you should stop y in Israel and visit some of our finest parks and tourist sites, you will see many Arabs and not all but many of them will make you sick with their bad manners and entitlement orientation.
Or maybe you just want to be rude and feel right.

Anonymous said...

I told you dear, I ain't gonna change your political views, you're too biased and I don't see why should I change it. So you think that the Arabs are great and the Palestinians are just angels and the "euro peace activists" are the salt of the earth. You may think whatever you like. Unlike you dear, I don't need to read or watch the news or hear what the media says, this is the reality I live in.

The fact that those Israeli youngsters are in kinda like to be in a pack is because they are more comfortable with their own kind, speaking the same language, having the same army stories, same jokes, same likeness of food etc.

The problem with you Europeans is that you're not that friendly, you don't understand our humor or pranks, you like to drink, more than the average Israeli can handle. And you guys look upon the locals in such a colonialist eyes that you won't even admit it.

Look at you how you're obsessed with ethnicity, nationality, skin color, shape of the hair… we don't do that. We usually get friendly with the locals much more than you guys can ever be. That is why we laugh with them, teach them Hebrew words or songs, write Hebrew menus for them. And yes, most of the youngsters are short with money and want to travel as long as they can. That doesn't mean that when they get older, they behave the same, not at all. We know how to spend money, more than you guys, where ever we travel.

Ohad

Ben Wilson said...

I am an American and I found this whole article really offensive. Maybe not racist because Israeli is not a race but wow! Such terrible stereotyping! But it is ok, I guess, I will just start doing in the English!

Tal Sheffer said...

Hey Warren,
My name is Tal and I am an Israeli. I am polite (my mother says so!) and try to treat other people with kindness and respect. I care about other people whether they are Israelis, Arabs or even Europeans(!!!)
I did my share of backpacking - mainly in Latin America. I have seen my fellow Israelis behaving badly.
When I read your comment in the "Wait But Why" blog, I laughed. Why? Because some Israelis actually possess some sense of humor (even if not fully developed). But when I read this column, I stopped laughing.
Now, it would be silly for me to try to prove you wrong. From my experience, people tend to hold on to their beliefs no matter what... What I can do, is to give you some food for thought and you can do with it whatever you like.
As far as I know, the Israeli backpackers "phenomena" started in the early 90's. Until the mid 80's, Israelis backpackers were "ordinary" - there weren't that many Israeli backpackers, and they behaved like any other backpackers. Let's call these backpackers the "real" backpackers.
In the early 90's, something happened: backpacking became trendy in Israel and almost every young Israeli found himself/herself in Latin America or India.
There are a few reasons for that phenomena. One of these reasons is a "real" Israeli backpacker called Yossi Ghinsberg, who was lost in the Jungle near Rurrenabaque with three other backpackers.
He survived alone for three weeks, and when he was rescued he wrote a book called "Back from Tuichi".
I recommend that you read this book: first of all it is an easy-read, and it’s thrilling. It also describes the picture of backpacking at the 80's, when there were only "real" backpackers around and the (much fewer) Israeli backpackers treated locals and other backpackers with respect, and were treated accordingly.
Specifically, Ghinsberg travelled with two friends: Kevin (American) and Markus (Swiss). He describes how the few Israelis that were backpacking, were given free accommodation by local Jewish institutes, and much more evidence for the situation back at the day.
Now, this book became a bestseller. In Israel - many young people wanted to go in Ghinsberg's footsteps and many people did. This, of course, is a very simplistic description of what happened, but hey, this is the Internet...

(To Be Continued)

Tal Sheffer said...

Hey Warren,
My name is Tal and I am an Israeli. I am polite (my mother says so!) and try to treat other people with kindness and respect. I care about other people whether they are Israelis, Arabs or even Europeans(!!!)
I did my share of backpacking - mainly in Latin America. I have seen my fellow Israelis behaving badly.
When I read your comment in the "Wait But Why" blog, I laughed. Why? Because some Israelis actually possess some sense of humor (even if not fully developed). But when I read this column, I stopped laughing.
Now, it would be silly for me to try to prove you wrong. From my experience, people tend to hold on to their beliefs no matter what... What I can do, is to give you some food for thought and you can do with it whatever you like.
As far as I know, the Israeli backpackers "phenomena" started in the early 90's. Until the mid 80's, Israelis backpackers were "ordinary" - there weren't that many Israeli backpackers, and they behaved like any other backpackers. Let's call these backpackers the "real" backpackers.
In the early 90's, something happened: backpacking became trendy in Israel and almost every young Israeli found himself/herself in Latin America or India.
There are a few reasons for that phenomena. One of these reasons is a "real" Israeli backpacker called Yossi Ghinsberg, who was lost in the Jungle near Rurrenabaque with three other backpackers.
He survived alone for three weeks, and when he was rescued he wrote a book called "Back from Tuichi".
I recommend that you read this book: first of all it is an easy-read, and it’s thrilling. It also describes the picture of backpacking at the 80's, when there were only "real" backpackers around and the (much fewer) Israeli backpackers treated locals and other backpackers with respect, and were treated accordingly.
Specifically, Ghinsberg travelled with two friends: Kevin (American) and Markus (Swiss). He describes how the few Israelis that were backpacking, were given free accommodation by local Jewish institutes, and much more evidence for the situation back at the day.
Now, this book became a bestseller. In Israel - many young people wanted to go in Ghinsberg's footsteps and many people did. This, of course, is a very simplistic description of what happened, but hey, this is the Internet...

(To be Continued...)

Tal Sheffer said...

(And... were back...)

Anyway, the result of this factor (and others) were that almost every young Israeli went backpacking after the army service. This is what you experience today.
Not everybody is a "real" backpacker. In fact, most people are not. Many Israeli backpackers do not care for the countries they visit or their culture. Many of them travel in groups - they don't want to mingle, just to have fun with their friends. They backpack because everybody does it. They are backpacking, but they are not backpackers’ material.
Now, if you'd put the majority of British youngsters in Latin America the result would be similar (or even worse) but - most Brits do not travel to Latin America - only people who really wish to go to Latin America go there...
Age is another factor. Most Israeli backpackers are very young. For them, Latin America is like Ibiza for the British or like the college/spring-break experience for Americans. They usually do only ONE trip, after the army, and then continue to start their life. They go there with their friends, get wasted, and in many cases cause damage and pain to the surrounding. I have seen similar phenomena in Ibiza and in South Beach, but Israelis do it in Latin America & India. Try to seek older Israeli backpacker. It’s hard – but if you find one, there's a good chance that he is a "real" backpacker.
Now, I don't like the fact that people that don't care about backpacking go backpacking, but to jump to the conclusion about Israel and Israelis in general? link it to the Mossad? really?
I'll give you an example from the other side - my side.I live in Tel Aviv, which is a modern secular city full of art & culture. There are many tourists from England in Tel Aviv. Whenever I see them, most of them are drunk. They are very loud. Some are not kind. Some are violent.
Now, should I base my assumption on their behavior or should I try and put things into context?
I prefer to put things into context. :)
Have a great day.
-T.

Anonymous said...

1. Do you call 18 years (most of my life) and now visiting every year "lacking any personal experiences"???
What?
I didn't go to the army because I - get this - EXTREMELY LEFT WING.
And how long have you been in Israel? How many Israeli friends do you have? How many Palestinians friends do you have?
You think you know more about my country than I do? What would you say if I said the same about the UK?

2. Yeah, because the definition of chauvinism and sexism is only one sentence. It's not like it's a complex subject or anything...

"Simply said she was stunning".
You remind me of a former manager I had who thought it was okay to speak to me like that all the time because it's a compliment.
Things have a context, and in this post's context, saying she had a great body was actually offending. Like that's all she had to offer and that's the only reason you liked her. You said nothing else about her!

Also, assuming I look bad in a swimsuit is the same old "all feminists are ugly" thing. I got angry when you objectified another woman, therefore I must be jealous.
(I'm a dancer, by the way. That's why I left Israel. I look fucking great in everything.)

3. I've actually been to Ireland, thank you. Beautiful place. Again, you know nothing about Israelis. I'm blue eyed and fair skinned.

4. Again, I know, I know lots of Israelis are rude. I know it better than you do. Many have written about this before and I completely agreed with them.
It's just you, specifically, who writes on the subject in a racist, prejudiced manner.

old8oy said...

Anonymous:

"do you know what it's like to bombed every day and need to run for cover or hit the floor in 10 to 60 sec notice 20 times a day? Oh you don't because you live in a safe place. No one wants you dead or out of your house."

The Palestinians say the same. And how could I possibly meet any? They're cut off from the sea and find it difficult enough to enter Bethlehem to work, never mind leave the country and travel

old8oy said...

Ben from America. Have you had any experiences travelling with large groups of Israeli backpackers? Have you been to Colombia?

For me to have met four friendly Isrealis in almost four years of travel in SE Asia and South America is, i think, quite sad. I would much rather have written an article about some funny and amusing Israelis who I had an interesting time with. But it didn't happen like that. And read the comments at the the top before these arguments started?

I went to an Israeli hostel with two friends in San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala, as I love the food. There were a few groups there, and not a single person of them smiled or returned our Hellos. A group that turned up after us were served before us. It was very unfriendly.

In one comment above someone said us Europeans are unfriendly and don't mix or speak to locals? What utter bollocks. I've spent a year in mexico now, and the only European friend I have here is French. I speak Spanish as a result of all my friends here being Mexican, Guatemalan or Colombian.

If I hadn't had so many bad experiences with Israelis on tour, I wouldn't have written the article. But a simple Google search reveals that I'm not alone on this one. Check the Chile version of the Lonely Planet and send them an email, too?

old8oy said...

Hey Tal

Thanks for your balanced comments. And for identifying yourself when posting. You seem to be the only one not to bite my head off recently?

Your insight into the backpacker phenomenon is interesting, and it's incredible that it seems that one book sparked off a revolution. You are right to say that young, badly behaved Brits could be equally as damaging. Plenty of good travel books are available in Britain...it's just that our youth are too busy taking drugs and stabbing each other to read. Believe me, my own country and countrymen frustrated me enough in making me set up home in Mexico (which isn't all narcos cutting off each other's heads with chainsaws).

The handful of Israelis I met and got on with were intelligent, warm and funny people. They shunned their own, the large groups, in much the same way I would if confronted with a bunch of drunken, singing Englishmen on the streets of Spain. I used to visit Barcelona two or three times a year until it became a destination for Hen and Stag parties (not sure you use the same terms for pre-marriage drunken free-for-alls in Israel? I'm assuming they'd be more civilised affairs). I sat on a balcony with two friends as the square below us was invaded by a large group of cackling woman, drunk as skunks...the leader being half-carried in a wedding veil. I put my beer down and said to my friends "Oh my god...the English are here."

I met an Israeli in his fifties in a Polanco bar here in DF recently. We swapped a few Israeli backpacker and drunken English football hooligan tales. He'd left his country years ago and, like me, didn't want any part of this US/ UK/ Israel alliance and what they're doing to the world.

My opening paragraph on this story is, I admit, pretty incendiary. There are always two sides to a story. There is likely nowhere so rich in culture and steeped in history as the Middle East, and it makes me sad that it's unlikely it'll be a safe place to visit (Israel aside...if Anonymous doesn't get hold of me) in my lifetime. Syria, Iran and the Lebanon are all places on my list in previous years. And yes...I'd like to visit Israel to see what it's really like. And Palestine if I could...though I'd be too scared of being mistaken for an American by any extremists there.

Israel are seen by British media, in the main, as the bully of the region. Recent events haven't helped. Maybe our media has an Arab bias? I don't know. But we can only base our beliefs on what we see and read and yes, some of us do seek the truth and read as much as we can. And it's not just Israelis. I almost had a Texan beat me up in a Honduran bar when I tried to get him to read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, about American foreign policy. Or maybe he was just angry that I was trying to get him to read a book? The Texans don't get out much, especially if that means going South.

At the end of the day, people's words are read from a flat screen, with no inflection or human interaction. If I had told these stories to an Israeli in a bar, with a laugh and over a few beers, there wouldn't have been the vitriol spouted on here. Likely someone like you, Tal.

I think I should perhaps visit your country. I would genuinely like to see the Israelis at home, and would likely view things differently. But please...don't take me to any bars where there are drunken Englishmen, Tal?

old8oy said...

Ohad.

You say we don't understand humour and pranks? two words for you: Monty Python.

Colonialist attitude? You're talking about ancient history. You write Hebrew songs and menus for them? You're in THEIR country...can't you do them the honour of learning Spanish instead of having homely signs in Hebrew all around you?

The last thing I would ever want is to spend a year in a foreign country with ten fellow Englishmen, speaking English, talking about football, fighting, beer, Coronation Street and our crap food. So I can't understand why 80% of Israelis do it. What do they get out of the trip? What do they learn? There are surely enough beautiful places in Israel if you wanted to do that? It just seems a bit narrow-minded to me.

I'd be only too happy to sit down and have a conversation about current affairs and better balance my views on the Middle East. But if the Israelis choose to stick to their own, and not mix with the rest of us, how is this ever going to happen? Pretty sad, if you ask me...

old8oy said...

And @Ben...feel free to have a pop at the English. I do, too.

old8oy said...

Ben, Anonymous, Ohad, Tal...thanks for taking time to comment, even if what you read made you sad or angry. I wrote this whole blog for my friends back home, so that they didn't have to be bored by travel stories on my return: those who chose to read it could read it. It is written in the same manner I'd tell a tale in the pub.

It is written without interaction from an audience til the very end, where people comment. If I sat with any one of you, Anonymous included, in a bar with a drink and some food, and read this out in my own voice, you'd have the chance to understand where I was taking the piss, playing devil's advocate, or completely wrong about something. You'd have the chance to interject, change a view. And maybe we'd get on.

It's all about debate and opinion. None of us have the full picture of what is going on anywhere, because the Powers That Be don't want the people to know what's going on, do they?

Anonymous said...

"The Palestinians say the same. And how could I possibly meet any? They're cut off from the sea and find it difficult enough to enter Bethlehem to work, never mind leave the country and travel"

Perfect response! As an American, I don't understand why we help Israelis, and I know TONS of other Americans who feel the same as me. Just wish our politicians would listen to us, their constituents!

old8oy said...

Thanks for your comment. Nice to be reviewing a comment which isn't attacking me for a change?

The trouble with the Middle East is similar to the that of the Balkans: both small regions with people of many races and widely differing (sometime fanatical) beliefs. There has been trouble in both regions for centuries.

Throw into the mix the West's greed for oil, and we have a ticking timebomb. I can't see that region being safe for a Whitey to travel in for many decades from now, if ever again.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, is not about religion, is just about the country... I've met a lot of large group of friends from other countries and they are not like israelies... israelis dont give a fuck about other people, they have just respect for their own...

znort said...

salute. landed here by chance and just wanted to say i found your post very interesting and amusing. and the comments, too. that is, up to the point where that anonymous troll kicked in. it's remarkable how politely and patiently you tried to deal with his blatant argument twisting, but maybe you could read up about the term "hasbara"(wikipedia would be a good place to start), it would give you some context as to why it seemed you weren't discussing with a real person but with some sort of autist boilerplate propaganda juggling device: because it was. the guy gets paid for this.

cheers, peace, and keep it up!

Dorothee said...

What about some pics of the stunning Efrat?

Anonymous said...

What about posting some pics of the stunning Efrat?

Anonymous said...

I've found the Dutch to be more derisive than the Brits or Aussies in their, what is now in this day and age, trite contempt of Americans. Where the Brits excel at condescension and patronizing diplomacy, the Aussies lack the diplomacy gene in favor of outright indifference and often rudeness; the Dutch lure one in with ersatz friendliness until once the unassuming American is hooked, until they allow their true colors to show

Hey, we're not all ugly, far too many of us are overly tolerant and forgiving.

Anonymous said...

I've found the Dutch to be more derisive than the Brits or Aussies in their, what is now in this day and age, trite contempt of Americans. Where the Brits excel at condescension and patronizing diplomacy, the Aussies lack the diplomacy gene in favor of outright indifference and often rudeness; the Dutch lure one in with ersatz friendliness until once the unassuming American is hooked, until they allow their true colors to show

Hey, we're not all ugly, far too many of us are overly tolerant and forgiving.

old8oy said...

There's certainly a mix of people from every country: a broad spectrum of attitudes, and with it a varying degree of intelligence. The shame of the Israelis is that I've met 90% bad ones, with the occasional who is a pleasure to talk to.

I'll have to ask my Dutch ex-flatmate about the attitude to Americans?

old8oy said...

One irate comment from an Israeli in the comments mentions that I don't know what it's like to be bombed every day? And I don't...not every day. But I was 500 yards away from the Manchester bomb the IRA planted some years back, and lost a friend to the bus bombing in London's Tavistock Square in July 2007. There are constant threats to English people, too...the Israelis don't have a monopoly on Bomb Sympathy.

Sussano said...

Hi there. I'm an Israeli planning my (first) backpacking trip to Europe. I am 21 years old and finished my army service not long ago. Some of my very best friends are in the middle of their own backpacking trips - some of them in Latin America, some in India and some in SE Asia. Just wanted to put all of this on the table before the rest of my comment.
Having said that, I'm probably closer in character to the single traveler you met in Thailand. I despise the behavior my fellow countrymen display not only abroad, but often here too, in our much-too-prized-homeland, and I too would rather keep clear of these hooligans (We call them Arsim in slang Hebrew. It's a word that describes exactly the type of behavior you are describing).
I even have another insight for you - this behavior isn't so much a product of the-world-is-against-us mentality (although its surely a factor in most cases) but rather more I-deserve-this mentality.
A very important thing you must understand about the basic Israeli mentality is the concept of "Frayer". It's a word in Hebrew that generally translates as Sucker. Israelis are taught never to be "Frayers", Never to let anyone step on you, never to give for free what you can sell, never to get less than you deserve (or, more accurately, always get as much as you can for what you paid, even if it means you have to be rude obnoxious. after all, you don't want to be a frayer, now don't you?).
The army service does a lot to strengthen this mentality. Since the average Israeli person gives away 2-3 years of his or her life to their country they fell like they deserve it. They deserve this long trip, as far away as possible from the country that stole those precious years of their lives, and they deserve to get the best service and best conditions they can get for what little money they have (since, as was told in earlier comments, the army pays very little, around 100$ per month or so, depending on what kind of job you do).
And having said all of that, you had one logic fallacy that I want to point out. Most of the Israelis you take notice of are the bad kind of travelers since they are the loudest and most easy to notice. There are probably lots of groups of nice, well behaved and polite Israeli backpackers out there, of which you don't hear because they are just that - nice and quiet. I know this for sure since, as I mentioned earlier, my friends are also abroad, doing their thing, and none of them is the type of people you described.

Peace,
Lior

Sussano said...

Hi there. I'm an Israeli planning my (first) backpacking trip to Europe. I am 21 years old and finished my army service not long ago. Some of my very best friends are in the middle of their own backpacking trips - some of them in Latin America, some in India and some in SE Asia. Just wanted to put all of this on the table before the rest of my comment.
Having said that, I'm probably closer in character to the single traveler you met in Thailand. I despise the behavior my fellow countrymen display not only abroad, but often here too, in our much-too-prized-homeland, and I too would rather keep clear of these hooligans (We call them Arsim in slang Hebrew. It's a word that describes exactly the type of behavior you are describing).
I even have another insight for you - this behavior isn't so much a product of the-world-is-against-us mentality (although its surely a factor in most cases) but rather more I-deserve-this mentality.
A very important thing you must understand about the basic Israeli mentality is the concept of "Frayer". It's a word in Hebrew that generally translates as Sucker. Israelis are taught never to be "Frayers", Never to let anyone step on you, never to give for free what you can sell, never to get less than you deserve (or, more accurately, always get as much as you can for what you paid, even if it means you have to be rude obnoxious. after all, you don't want to be a frayer, now don't you?).
The army service does a lot to strengthen this mentality. Since the average Israeli person gives away 2-3 years of his or her life to their country they fell like they deserve it. They deserve this long trip, as far away as possible from the country that stole those precious years of their lives, and they deserve to get the best service and best conditions they can get for what little money they have (since, as was told in earlier comments, the army pays very little, around 100$ per month or so, depending on what kind of job you do).
And having said all of that, you had one logic fallacy that I want to point out. Most of the Israelis you take notice of are the bad kind of travelers since they are the loudest and most easy to notice. There are probably lots of groups of nice, well behaved and polite Israeli backpackers out there, of which you don't hear because they are just that - nice and quiet. I know this for sure since, as I mentioned earlier, my friends are also abroad, doing their thing, and none of them is the type of people you described.

Peace,
Lior

P.S notice how I completely ignored the entire political aspect of your post. That was on purpose ;)

old8oy said...

Hey Lior.

If only there were more like you and, like you say, there probably are. All the solo travellers and pairs that I've met have been lovely. It's only the gangs bullying their way around the globe I have problems with.

As for the politics, it's all subjective. None of get the full picture, and They only let us know what They want us to know.

I wish you the best of luck in your European trip. Don't miss Barcelona, London, Amsterdam or Berlin.

Anonymous said...

yo old8oy, you should reread you're comments, you sound like a huge douche bag.

old8oy said...

That's "re-read" with a hyphen.

"Your" as in the possessive, not "You're" as in the abbreviation of "You are".

And anyone who uses the term "douchebag" is likely a pre-pubescent fool.

Back to school for you.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% with you oldboy on your broad spectrum point, after years of defending "Yanks" of being far too broad a demographic to generalize, that war is never won.

old8oy said...

Yep...and there's a wide range of Limeys over here...from the intelligent, affable and polite to the rude, ill-educated and downright obnoxious.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

;)

Leo Reyes said...

Ur such a Jerk... I work in a hostel and i pretty much al the Israelies i meet here are really nice, if ur going to complaine about my writing, im not an english native speaker. BTW there is most clients from others nacionalities who really are a pain in the ass like British Girls who spect 5 stars hotel service, annoying french cuples who expect to everybody speaks french in latin america just to mention some of them.
Leo

Leo Reyes said...

Ur such a Jerk... I work in a hostel and i pretty much al the Israelies i meet here are really nice, if ur going to complaine about my writing, im not an english native speaker. BTW there is most clients from others nacionalities who really are a pain in the ass like British Girls who spect 5 stars hotel service, annoying french cuples who expect to everybody speaks french in latin america just to mention some of them.
Leo

old8oy said...

Estoy de acuerdo contigo, Leo. Hay muchos idiotas en el mundo...y algunos de ellos trabajan en hostales.

Buen día.

Anonymous said...

You said you don't wonder why the Israelis don't intermingle with all the other people? Because last time that happened 6 million of them died. So they see it fit to keep to themselves, let them, but don't a be a bitch and start complaining that they "don't intermingle." You Ignorant asshole.

old8oy said...

It was 6 million people died in Hitler's Holocaust. This included homosexuals, dissidents and Romany gypsies. And the Jews who died were from Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and many other European countries. This happened between 1942 and 1944.

Are you aware that the state of Israel did not exist until it was created in 1948? So the people who died were Jews, but not Israelis.

Over 100,000 Bosnians were killed in the Balkan war in 1990. There are many Bosnians in London who mix and socialise with other people. 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in the Rwandan genocide. Many fled to England. They mix. 2.5 million Sudanese have died in the conflict there.

So please, before you call someone an ignorant asshole...get your facts straight first. You ignorant cunt.

Yuri Jeong said...

Wah. This continued for 2 years arguing hehe. Im a Korean. And its fun to watch you guyz arguing about racism on this matter. I read it all for 1 hour.. thank you.. real racism comes up when they are focusing on comparing each other when its actually a matter of what the fuck the other concerned local people feel and Asian people feel who sometimes had to be victims of stereotyped travelling manner made by westerners.

aidan kelly said...

I was in Tel Aviv from Oct '93 till Feb '95. I went there at the end of the Greek season where I worked at an Irish bar in Ios Greece. I suppose I was one of the English piss-heads people go on about but what the hell you only live once might as well enjoy it.
When I arrived in Tel Aviv the hostels were packed with backpackers from around the world and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I recall getting out of the taxi from Haifa outside the Gordon Hostel by the beach and seeing all the darling Israeli girls walking around and the realization that I was actually in the world famous Tel Aviv.
Every Israeli I met during my stay in Tel Aviv was kind and helpful and also very generous, and they must have had great patience to put up with all the pissheads from around the globe who were either heading to Kibbutz's or Moshavs or returning from them.
I just got building jobs as I'm a plasterer by trade and I worked with plenty of Arab plasterers while I was there, they were the best plasterers I had ever seen, and the Israeli workers were all great lads who would bring you to their homes to meet their familes and go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
There were 2 bus bombings while I was there and Rabin also got shot at that rally, and I always drank in Mikes Place and Mulligans Bar during my time there as well as the Dolphinarium.
At no time did the Israeli people make us feel unwelcome during these troubled times and I always admired how carefree and unworried they seemed amidst all the chaos that was going on around them.
I loved my time there and I loved the people.

old8oy said...

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and write a considered reply, Aidan. I'm sure things are different over there, and we see (in the main) only their worst exports.

I'm pretty sure the Greeks, Cypriots and Spaniards have a similar view of the English and Irish.

I've a few Israeli mates, and several Jewish friends in England. One of whom I've fallen out with recently over the Palestinian issue. A proper can of worms, that.

Glad you had a good time in Tel Aviv.

aidan kelly said...

Cheers, I've enjoyed reading your blog, very entertaining.

old8oy said...

Thanks, mate. Really appreciate people taking the time to read it.