Israelis are known as avid domestic tourists, particularly during holiday seasons, when hundreds of thousands descend on the nation’s nature reserves, lakes, and parks.
This guide is designed for the foreign traveler, who is likely to bump into local tourists while exploring the country. The information is also useful in case Israeli relatives or friends invite you to join them on a daily excursion.
In general, Israeli travelers tend to fall into one of the following 10 categories, each with its own peculiar habits and obsessions:
1. The Barbecue King
The Barbecue King is the ultimate Israeli traveler and can be found in the nation’s forests and parks. Alternately, you might discover him on the side of the road, on traffic islands, or anywhere else he can find room for his barbecue.
For the BK, a trip is merely an excuse for stuffing his tattered barbecue into the trunk of the car along with huge piles of low-grade meat sufficient for feeding a medium-sized African nation.
Keep in mind that the BK need not be bothered with such trivialities as hikes, a new scenic route, or family attractions. What makes the trip worthwhile for him is a good hotdog (usually burnt,) a few kebabs (always burnt), and a good steak for dessert.
Giveaway sentence: “Great wings, eh? It’s a secret recipe. OK, who didn’t get a hotdog yet?”
Advice to fellow travelers: Eat and shut up.
2. The Commando
The Commando hits the road for the purpose of conquering and moving on to the next hilltop. You may be exhausted by the time you hit the first site, which is always a stopover on the way to the “River of Tears,” “Satan’s Cave,” or something similar.
You should also expect the next point of interest to always be at least four hours (of intense hiking) away.
The Commando completed his army service 20 years ago, but is still addicted to long hikes and nighttime orienteering missions. The mere thought of wandering into a minefield is a particularly exhilarating rush.
Giveaway sentence: “Move it already, you sissies. You call this a mountain?”
Advice to fellow travelers: Don’t join the trip - fake an injury if necessary.
3. The Kabala Master
Forget about fun or entertainment, the Kabala Master is out on a spiritual journey. He knows all the important graves of Jewish sages in Israel as well as the special powers associated with visiting each grave, be it finding a partner, fertility, or skin diseases.
The KM’s route largely passes through the country’s north and can be easily negotiated with a 4X4 vehicle. Our man, however, mostly does it on all fours, due to his affinity for prostrating himself upon the graves.
Giveaway sentence: “I was able to find a match for a 77-year-old virgin at Rabbi Shimon Ben Karnavora’s grave, ya know.”
Advice to fellow travelers: Avoid the following question at all costs: “How do you know for a fact this is Shimon Ben Karnavora’s grave? Everything here is written in Arabic after all.”
4. The Extreme Sports Nut
The ESN is the Commando’s soul mate, but also possesses suicidal tendencies. He is overcome by an uncontrollable urge to climb every mountain he sees – on the cliff side, and preferably with his head facing the ground.
Giveaway sentence: “Too bad I left the ice pick at home.”
Advice to fellow travelers: Again, don’t join the trip – mention that you have children, a wife, and a mortgage.
5. The Couch Potato
The Couch Potato is the polar opposite of the ESN. He did not even want to go on the trip, but was dragged by his wife and brother-in-law. The heat is killing him, his shoes sink in cow manure, and the perspiration stings his eyes.
Curiously, he constitutes a preferable target for flies even when resting. You want to show him some fabulous scenery? No need to bother, the man is colorblind.
Giveaway sentence: “Why climb again? We can watch the sunset from here, too.”
Advice to fellow travelers: The man is suffering as it is, why remind him that he is also missing tonight’s basketball game?
6. The Botanist
The Botanist designs his hiking routes according to the daffodil and petunia blooming season. He is also capable of covering the entire Galilee region in order to find wild ivy.
He drives everyone crazy with dramatic speeches about a rare species able to survive in extreme weather conditions, while pointing to a dried up thorn that reminds you that yet again you forgot to water your mother-in-law’s backyard.
The Botanist is also known to occasionally scare Golan residents with his screams. When you rush to his side you discover him standings stunned near some weeds and muttering to himself: “I can’t believe it, an Eastern Calendula.”
Giveaway sentence: “What, you can’t see this is a Turkish Begonia?”
Advice to fellow travelers: Don’t even think about forgetting your plant guide at home.
7. The Brand-Name Addict
It takes him two hours to prepare for a day trip, and not because he is making sandwiches.
The addict is probably busy packing his new Lowe Alpine bag (suitable for month-long treks,) and trying on his rare North Face jacket (designed for extreme Alaskan weather conditions.)
Giveaway sentence: “I’m not showing off, wearing perfectly sealed shoes is important in Tel Aviv, too.”
Advice to fellow travelers: Do not ask whether his clothes are stolen goods purchased in Thailand.
8. The Shanti Lover
You can’t mistake the look: relaxed fit burgundy pants, sandals, and a particularly ugly silk shirt. She just returned from India and does not have a nickel to spare, so her trips hinge on finding friends with a car, or hitchhiking.
Once at her destination, she will pull out a hammock, play a tape of dolphin sounds, and read about Transcendental Meditation.
Giveaway sentence: “Meditation is like love – you cannot understand it until you do it.”
Advice to fellow travelers: Yes, she told you she studied music in Rajasthan, but for your own sake, do not ask her to play the sitar she bought in Mumbai.
9. The gourmet traveler
The key points marked on his map are mostly wineries and specialized dairy farms. One third of the trip is dedicated to driving, another third to eating, and the final third to drinking.
Do not bother him with waterfalls and sunsets. The important thing is that the Sauvignon Blanc known for its crispy acidity compliments the smoked cheese.
Two goats and a dairy farmer left the kibbutz and opened a farm on a hill in the middle of nowhere? He is the first to show up and sample the goods.
Giveaway sentence: “It’s amazing what this Galilee chill does to the wine’s aroma.”
Advice to fellow travelers: When he starts drinking, quietly ask whether he notices the difference between red and white wine.
10. The Northern Tel Aviv Snob
The Brand-Name Addict's cousin. The Northern Tel Aviv Snob has developed severe jeep deprivation as a result of doing his military service in Tel Aviv.
Therefore, he just purchased a brand new 4X4, equipped with a kangaroo-collision protector.
He mostly uses the jeep to navigate from his office to the supermarket and gym, but every now and then hears the call of the wild.
Giveaway sentence: “Look at this beautiful wadi, kids. No, Dina, don’t open the window, we have the air conditioner going in here!”
Advice for fellow travelers: Don’t question his jeep’s capabilities, unless you feel like getting stuck in sand dunes in the middle of the desert.