From Cyprus to Turkey, through Thailand, Peru, the United Kingdom, India and so many other destinations, the bad reputation of the Israelis almost always catches up with them. So much so that they are ranked fifth among the worst tourists in the world.
For example, an Israeli passport in Dubai could result in higher prices due to bad behavior by some Israeli tourists.
Luxury car rental companies also suffer from Israeli mayhem. "One of my clients crashed a Bentley against a pole. He was driving at 150 km/h (93 mph) in the middle of town," says Philippe Sarfati, director of the online travel agency Booknow.co.il.
It was only two years ago when the Abraham Accords normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. At that time, the Foreign Ministry was informing future tourists of good practices in the Muslim country with strict rules. Then the first Tel Aviv-Dubai flights began.
Israeli Gil Gurevitch, who owns a kosher restaurant in Dubai, extensively documents on his Instagram account the excesses of his compatriots in the flagship tourist city of the Emirates.
He reports, among other things, that their poor behavior in nightclubs or in shopping centers attracts a good number of fines. And what about those who take towels, hangers, kettles or even lamps, stolen from their hotel room?
When the Israeli passes, the rules pass away
Stories of this type are legion in the UAE, but not only in the Gulf state. Wherever the Israeli tourist goes, the rules take a vacation.
"Shameless," "undisciplined," "noisy," and "demanding," are the words that come up most often to describe them.
"Israelis have a certain natural nerve - their famous chutzpa - which stands out, even more, when they are abroad because it is a way of being that often clashes with local norms," notes Danielle, an Israeli of 30 years old, make-up artist by trade.
She herself does not recognize herself in this attitude, and sometimes goes so far as to conceal her nationality when she travels.
“I was recently in Italy, and one day I saw a group of Israelis arrive at the hotel where I was staying. By the time we gave them their rooms, they made a mess at the reception. The mothers were changing their babies on the armchairs, while the fathers were shouting at the older children who were running around. It was nonsense," she says.
"Israelis have this tendency to behave everywhere as if they were at home. There is a 'national' familiarity in Israel which they reproduce abroad. These tourists act as if all the inhabitants of the world are their cousins or their next door neighbors," Sarfati says, pointing out that this is even more true when the destination is cheap because it attracts more popular classes.
Many Israelis traveling are young people who have just finished their army service. Once rid of the Israel Defense Forces uniform, the latter have only one idea in mind: to escape as far as possible and enjoy their newfound "freedom." For some of them, the challenge is also to clear their heads, putting aside the traumas experienced during their service.
Many of these young people therefore go to India, Thailand or South America for a trip that can last several months, and "enjoy life."
Problems arise when their conception of fun and relaxation - two things they have long been deprived of - lead them to overstep the boundaries. We can no longer count the setbacks with the local authorities of young Israelis, often involving alcohol or drugs, who break the rules of the country.
In Chile and Peru, for example, Israelis have made headlines for starting forest fires, camping in illegal areas, photographing themselves naked at sacred sites or staging an orgy in an archeological park.
These events are inevitably very badly perceived by the local populations, but also by the Jewish communities of these countries. Many Jews from popular tourist countries complain in particular about the bad image of the nation conveyed by these young people abroad.
Michelle Hites, an active member of the Jewish community in Santiago, Chile, notably wrote an op-ed in Haaretz to explain how much she suffered from having to spend her time and energy defending the reputation of Israelis and Jews in her country, following unfortunate incidents provoked by her co-religionists.
"An Israeli tourist is an ambassador, but undoubtedly they are creating more harm than good to Jewish communities abroad. Israeli tourists, when you're planning your big trip, please, remember that you go back to Israel, but we are the ones that stay and have to deal with the aftermath you have left, and we are tired," Hites wrote in 2014 for the Israeli newspaper.
What better evidence is there than that these hotels or hostels in different countries are now closed - more or less officially - to young Israelis.
Or a brochure, published in Goa, India, by a local branch of the Roman Catholic Church, describing young post-army Israelis as the Achilles' heel of local tourism?
So much so that some advocate a law prohibiting Israelis from traveling abroad for six months after their army service.
Easier said than done, the culture of travel is so intertwined with Israeli norms. The small size of the country, added to a hostile neighborhood, make Israelis eager for new horizons. And this fidgeting is caught at an early age. It is therefore not uncommon to see Israelis aged 16 or 17 strolling around Greece or Cyprus, two very cheap destinations within an hour's flight, which they afford thanks to their odd jobs.
These teenagers are on the move and without supervision and they are largely unaware of the basic rules of good manners - fire extinguisher battles in hotels, watermelon peels thrown from balconies, burnt furniture or sexual misconduct.
Anxious to denounce this phenomenon, a Facebook account opened in 2015 called "the ugly Israeli," which invited internet users to post photos and videos showing reprehensible behavior.
Started by Israelis aware of the damage caused abroad by this kind of attitude, the group was a resounding success. Since then, the expression "the ugly Israeli" has remained attached to the escapades of Israelis abroad but also in the country.
Unloved but courted tourists
So how can we explain that Israeli tourists are still so courted, as evidenced by the international Mediterranean tourism fair in Tel Aviv, which sees more and more foreign tourist offices and tour operators?
The answer is that they are very good customers for the sector.
As mentioned above, the Israeli, striving for a change of scenery and novelty, travels absolutely everywhere (4.5 million tourists in 2019), and all year round, unlike Europeans for example, who take holidays in the summer and one or two weeks in the winter.
Israeli tourists, on the other hand, fill the hotels even during off-peak periods. Result: even Japan, where behavioral standards are highly regulated, makes them look soft.
The other advantage of blue and white travelers is that they spend a lot ($2,219 - around 7,700 shekels - on average per Israeli per year).
"Israelis are bon vivants, who like to have fun. They do not close their wallets when they are abroad, as long as they 'kiffent' (enjoy)," confirms Philipe Sarfati of the Booknow.co.il travel agency.
Many of them take off with an empty suitcase that they will fill as they go shopping.
"Israeli tourists have a buying frenzy. The amount of their expenses is several tens of percent higher than that of European tourists," said the head of the Polish pavilion at the last international tourism fair in Tel Aviv.
While it is undeniable that Israelis benefit from a particularly strong shekel, the national culture of life on credit and deferred payments is what allows almost everyone to travel, even if it means paying for their holidays in 36 installments.
Under these conditions, it will be understood that even the Emirates continue to bet on the development of Israeli tourism, while six to eight daily flights from Tel Aviv pour tourists into the country.
Samuel, an Israeli who has been living in Mexico for a few years, confirms that many Mexicans are annoyed by the mentality and behavior of some Israeli tourists, but that they take it upon themselves willy-nilly, knowing that they are good customers.
"I regularly hear Mexicans telling me that they have a hard time putting up with the unabashed attitude of the Israelis and their mania for haggling over everything, but that doesn't stop them from smiling at them and even throwing a few words at them in Hebrew to attract them. Tourists are their livelihood," he says.
Ditto in Thailand, a favorite destination for young Israelis. Although the country is experiencing the excesses linked to these tourists, the fact remains that many restaurant menus are translated into Hebrew and Israelis continue to be welcomed there in large numbers,
Is the negative behavior of Israelis on trips only a reflection of the times?
In any case, this is what certain travel sites and specialized publications claim, according to which these bad practices are not the prerogative of Israelis.
Increasingly common among travelers, and generously relayed on social networks since the appearance of the smartphone, these attitudes are in fact indicative of a broader malaise: that of values that are being lost, of vulgarity that is becoming the norm and letting go in education, they say.
Whether or not blue-and-white tourists are alone in doing so, many observers urge their soul-searching: while Israel is already suffering from international criticism, travelers from the Jewish state should never forget that they are the first ambassadors of their country.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS