Israelis wary after Kenya attacks, but they still have the travel bug.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
At the end of last week, after three Israelis were
killed in a suicide bombing at a beachside hotel near
Mombasa, Kenya, a Thai army general warned of
Muslim extremists in Thailand. As the Thai army
attempted to reassure, saying Thailand wouldn't
become a second Bali — a reference to the recent
bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed more than
180 people — Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a gen-
eral warning about terrorists' intentions to attack
"Israel can't give a security guard to each tourist,"
a Foreign Ministry official said. "But it does obligate
Israeli tourists to be more aware."
traveling in a group with otherIsraelis.
At the same time, Israelis will keep on traveling
abroad, even to less secure destinations, several
tourism experts said. "When the U.S. State
Department puts out a warning, Americans pay
attention," Kara said. "When Israel's Foreign
Ministry puts out an advisory, Israelis weigh it, but
they're more reasonable."
In other words, they know it may not be safer to
spend a couple of days in the seaside city of
Netanya, site of several gruesome terrorist attacks,
than it would be to lay on the beach in Phuket,
Thailand or Antalya, Turkey.
"Israelis go on vacation to relax, to take a break
from the news and the reality of life here," said
Yossi Patael, director of the travel agents association.
"The kind of thing that happened in Mombasa will
affect them, but it won't change their minds about
Israelis have always been adventurous and fre-
quent travelers, as Israel's small size and aggressive
lifestyle lead many to seek escape to less-crowded
shores. In the last decade, as per capita income rose
to more than $17,000, many travel agencies and
charter companies organized weekend and mid-
week jaunts to the Czech Republic, Turkey and
Greece, charging $200 per person
for flights and stays at four-star
These days, Israelis may choose
.T London over Vietnam, or Barcelona
, x rather than Bombay.
n Sunday, Guy Behat swung his heavy
knapsack onto his back, kissed his mother
and father goodbye, and prepared to
board a plane to Bombay.
Behat, 22, had been planning his post-Israeli army
trip to India, Thailand and Australia for the last two
years. Nothing, not a terrorist attack in Kenya nor
his mother's tears and his father's concerns, was
going to stop him.
Not even the fact that his sister, Vered, was
wounded during a terrorist attack on Jerusalem's Ben
Yehuda pedestrian mall last year would deter him. If
anything, his sister's experience made Behat less sus-
ceptible to his parents' protests.
While the number of Israelis vacationing abroad is
"The chances are much higher
that something would happen to me
here in Israel, and not in_Bombay or
Bangkok," Behat said. "Yeah, I
know these places seem kind of
risky. But can you honestly tell me
that they're riskier than Jerusalem?"
Dozens of young Israelis with
worn jeans, rubber-soled sandals and
hefty knapsacks were lingering over
In places like Barcelona and Paris,
their airport goodbyes to mothers
Israeli travel agencies can spread a
and fathers, boyfriends and girl-
planeload of Israelis among 10
friends, brothers and sisters. They
hotels, rather than in one, easily tar-
promised to call and to be careful.
geted location, said Boaz Waxman,
But despite the travel advisories
managing director of Ophir Tours,
for some of their destinations, they
one of Israel's largest tourism corn-
all left for what has become a tradi-
tional, post-army service world tour
"These are the kind of things we
that can last anywhere from two
think about," Waxman said. "We
months to two years.
spread our tourists around and try
"I tried to explain to him my sus-
not to put more than 20 Israelis in
picions and fears, but it didn't help, ))
one hotel. We have to have stricter
said Behat's father, Nissim. "He just
stood his ground."
At Issta, a wholesale Israeli travel
Grieving mourners embrace next to theflower-covered graves of Israeli brothers, Noy Anter,
Last year, 91,543 Israeli tourists
targeting the student and
12, and Dvir Anter, 13, killed by suicide bombers in Mombasa, Kenya, last week. Their
traveled to Thailand, and 100,000
crowd, Ronen Carasso, a
mother was seriously wounded in the bombing and their sister moderately injured.
are expected to reach its exotic
company vice president, predicted
shores this year. El Al flies to
that Israeli travel to Mombasa would
Bangkok from Tel Aviv five times a
fall after the Nov. 28 attacks. But no
down 15 percent, around 3.5 million Israelis went
matter what , Israelis will travel. Simply put, a desire
So far, neither El Al nor Arkia Airlines, another
abroad in 2002, according to the Israel Tourist and
to escape th e realities of home outweighs the risks of
Israeli airline that specializes in charter flights
Travel Agents Association. Israel's population is 6
abroad, have had any cancellations for Bangkok . or
million. At least half traveled to more traditional
"Why wouldn't I travel?" said Gaby Arbib, an eco-
Bombay. The younger Israelis who travel to those
destinations, such as cities in western Europe and
nomic analyst who recently visited Amsterdam with
the United States.
destinations are less influenced by politics and less
his wife and two children. "We're used to anything
sensitive to dangers, said Israel Oleinik, director of
Some 70 percent traveled by regular airlines, while
from living here. And besides, what's the alternative?
Shiluv, a marketing firm.
the rest chose charter flights.
"If I stay here and don't go abroad for vacations
"They will still head out to Thailand and South
Individual Israelis may decide against traveling to
because of security fears, there's no guarantee that I
America and India for their great adventure,"
certain destinations, said Nahum Kara, managing
can't get hurt here," Arbib pointed out. "If anything,
Oleinik said. "It's the middle range, the Israelis in
director of Natour, a wholesale travel agent. They
my chances of getting caught in a terrorist attack are
their 30s and 40s, who will think twice about where
may opt for arranging their own trip, rather than
less if I'm out of Israel." ❑