At Home and Abroad, Israelis Ignore the Rest of the World

You might expect such a tourism-loving people to open its eyes and ears to what can be seen and heard around the globe. Instead, we keep walling ourselves in against what the world thinks and feels.

More than 300,000 people are on their way home now. They once again traveled and vacationed abroad. The traveling nation is visible, very much so, but blind. You’ll see and hear them in all four corners of the earth, but they’ll come home without seeing much and understanding even less.

Some 20,000 will come from the Sinai without seeing Egypt, thousands of students come home from Poland every year without exchanging a word with a Pole, and tens of thousands come back from Goa or the Tierra del Fuego without listening to what the Indians of South America or the Indians of India have to say. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have “done” America and Europe, east and west, and they will come home as oblivious and closed in as they were when they left.

No one seems to travel as much as the wandering Israeli, and no other nation turns it back as much on the rest of the world. You might expect such a tourism-loving people to open its eyes and ears to what can be seen and heard around the globe; instead, we keep walling ourselves in against what the world thinks and feels.

Every journey begins with a national scare campaign, a barrage of terror threats and travel warnings, which almost never materialize and which we don’t listen to anyway. The latest one, over the weekend, was that another global terror attack was on its way. And what are we supposed to do? Be extra careful? How exactly? Not travel? Not take cabs? Countless more Israelis have died in terror attacks inside Israel than abroad, without any travel warnings.

Alongside the threats of the Counterterrorism Bureau comes the usual threat about the whole world being against us. The Poles are anti-Semites, hardly anything needs to be said about the Turks and Germans, the Swedes all hate us and so do the French. Nearly every young person will come back with some fabricated story about some appalling anti-Semitic incident.

After the intimidation comes your ordinary Israeli condescension. The Americans are square, the Indians are primitive, the South Americans are backward, the Turks are Muslim, the Brits are old-fashioned, the Scandinavians are naive and the Italians are ridiculous. Israelis are the chosen people. We’ll teach them all a lesson in improvisation, resourcefulness and trickery.

It’s not that we don’t have anything to teach the world, but how about some modesty? Maybe the world can teach us something too? No sir. People around the world who haven’t heard about the murders in Itamar are seen as ignoramuses − yet what do we know about them? Zilch.

Then comes the coming together. Between the Chabad House in Nepal and Moshe’s hummus place in Thailand, Israelis come in tight bunches − Israelis with Israelis, no foreigners allowed. They eat shawarma and shakshuka, schnitzel in a pita and pizza on a plate just like back home, including croutons and cornflakes from Israel. That’s why they went all that way − to be Israelis at home and Israelis abroad. Even when in Rome they don’t do as the Romans do.

You could expect something different to come out of all this welcome travel. These trips were supposed to provide some openness, modesty, curiosity and knowledge. They could have taught us that despite everything we’re told, the world is not entirely against us and we’re not always the world’s chief concern; that there’s a world without Israel and it’s rich with culture and lessons. They were supposed to expand our knowledge and understanding that sometimes we too should listen to what the world has to say.

But we insist: International law doesn’t concern us, and neither do international institutions and organizations. We don’t care about world opinion, or the opinions of other governments, and we don’t even want to hear about the lessons from other nations’ pasts.

There have been closed-in nations that traveled here and there. But this combination of complete apathy to the world and endless traveling around it is a truly Israeli invention. Why? Because as the bumper sticker says, Israeli is best, bro.