Israeli travelers in India

… the Rabbi looking fellow blessing some Israeli tourists…

From what I judge in my visit to India, easily 1/4 to 1/3rd of all the tourists are Jewish; specifically, they are Israeli.  India, I later learn, is a big Mecca for Israeli travelers.  In the days following, I will talk to many of the Israeli travelers and they will tell me that India has become a “traditional travel destination” following a soldier’s release from mandatory Army service.  One young man who was just released from the Army 2 months earlier told me, “In the Army, we have to fight. We fight with the Palestinians.  Some are our neighbors, many have children.  It is very hard.  We just go crazy.  We need a break.  India is peaceful.  We can forget about the Army, forget about Israel’s problems.”

Even later, I’m told that Israel and India have a “below the radar” relationship and even share intelligence.  I am told that they have a sense of comraderie in that they both have shared enemies.

It seems that any time I talk to an Israeli soldier and the word Army is used in the sentence that the F-word is also used.  A sentence describing the Israeli Army usually includes many F-bombs; not much different from many American Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.

Many of the young Israelis express their frustration at Israel’s policy and forced military service.  Several tell me that it is not fair that Orthodox leaders make a policy of war but their children are exempt from military service.  They bemoan that the children of secular parents, many members of Liberal Israeli society, who are opposed to the settlements, are the ones who are forced to fight the war.  Some are more opposed to Israel’s policies than others, some not at all.  Regardless of their political views, they all shared similar sentiments; absolute loyalty to Israel regardless of their personal views (as a soldier, I can sympathize with this completely), complete and utter contempt for the Hamas suicide bombings and rocket attacks, a complete and utter disdain for the Army and the Army lifestyle and anger that the children of those who dictate the war are exempt from military service (that may ring a bell as of the 435 Congress-critters in the US, only 2 have children that are enlisted in the US Armed forces).

Many that I talk to have a desire to come to some sort of peace with the Palestinians that is equitable and sustainable.  None are willing to yield to terrorism but most were willing to give up the settled areas.  Many have Palestinian friends from University or from High School and were VERY emotionally disturbed by their service.  They often have a desire to completely “disconnect” from reality (I learn that hashish smoking is common with the recently released soldiers – both male and female).  The Israeli girls are very beautiful and I am often reminded at how much they look like many of the Arab girls that I see while working in the Middle East, especially the Syrians.

An older Muslim couple from Spain are part of the crew and they interact with the Jewish travelers as though they were all best friends. I remember my visit to Singapore when I was on a city bus and saw Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus all dressed in their separate religious clothing, all chatting like old friends. I commented to my travel mate, “The world could learn something from Singapore.”


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