Tourism Tip

Consider the Israeli Cockroach

The big flying bugs here may be off-putting, but they won't hurt you and they mostly come out at night.

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Dear tourist: Yes, Israel has cockroaches. Every continent has them. And the Israeli version is large and it can fly.

Fear not the Israeli "blattaria," large and obnoxious though it may be. Like its relatives in other climes, it isn't poisonous or even particularly filthy – at least it isn't filthier than the last thing it crossed. You won't die if you eat a sandwich it walked on.

Why would Haaretz write a tourist tip on the humble bug? Because this author has observed tourists take fright at the sight, not realizing that the creepy-crawly almost the size of their finger is perfectly harmless (unless one happens to be allergic). If anything, dear tourist, why not spare a thought for the bug's remarkable evolutionary persistence. Humans may not know their evolutionary provenance, but what's for sure is that our ape ancestors were plagued by them too.

How big is the beast? Adult Israeli roaches are typically about 3 centimeters long, which is, just over an inch. That's about double the size of the average American cockroach but is the same as the roaches in Europe.

Before you cancel your ticket to Israel and buy one to a tropical island instead, do note that in the tropic climes, roaches tend to be double the size of the Israeli ones.

One nice thing about the Israeli cockroach is that it's silent, unlike the hissing cockroach of Madagascar, which shrieks when cornered (and can be three inches long – count your blessings, tourists in Israel). However, the Israeli roach is big enough to make quite a racket when it flies about banging into walls.

Another upside of our local version is that like most of its brethren around the world, the Israeli roach is nocturnal. You may see them during the day but it's mostly at night that they fly and scurry about like tiny chitinous bats. 

There are rumors that cockroaches can survive without their heads or that they survive being immersed in water for a long time. The only question in this writer's mind is why anybody sane would want to find out. But if there's a cockroach in your hotel room and you find you can't appreciate its evolutionary charms, a shoe will do the trick.