Goa, once a prime destination for Israel’s young and party-savvy men and women after a punishing stint in the armed forces, will now see more older tourists and couples which will change the perception of Israelis as that of being boorish, drug-craving and adulterous, a top diplomat feels.
David Akov, Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, said on the sidelines of an Israeli film festival in Panaji that concerted efforts were being made by the Israeli authorities to ensure that tourists enhance the profile of their country whenever they travel. Israeli tourists to Goa have been accused by Goa’s Roman Catholic Church as well as politicians of being boorish, drug-craving, adulterous and ghetto-minded.
“The changing profile of Israeli tourists will change that naturally, because we have more families and people who are older in age. They look for a different kind of tourism. We already see it changing in our consulate in Mumbai. There are a lot less problems than existed before,” Akov told IANS.
Over 40,000 Israelis visit India every year and, according to Akov, a big chunk of them eventually make it to Goa.
“I can tell you most Israeli tourists who visit India come to Goa because, as I said, Goa is well-known in Israel and people want to see Goa,” he said.
Since the mid-1980s, beaches in Goa like Anjuna, Ozrant, Vagator, Chapora and Arambol have been well-known haunts for young Israeli tourists – some in pursuit of a lazy, beach holiday and some for drugs.
One of the most common Hebrew word in the local vocabulary at the time was “balagan” or trouble, muttered under the breath while arguing with a boisterous but often harmless Israeli tourist. With this bohemian lifestyle and clustering in beachside informal enclaves, where locals were frowned upon, Jewish tourists often attracted criticism, especially from the Roman Catholic Church.
Some years ago, a Church-funded NGO published a book “Claiming the right to say no: A study of Israeli tourist behaviour and patterns in Goa”, in which 11 seminarians, priests-in-making, wrote about the lifestyle of Israeli tourists in Goa.
“In Vagator, there is a beach called ‘Israeli beach’ just below the 9 Bar. Non-Israelis are frightened to come over to this place,” writes Brother Mario Fernandes.
In another section, Brother Manuel says: “Can you imagine young boys killing people? They (Israelis) go mad while in the services. The government sends these people to relaxation hubs. One of them is Goa.”
Even former union minister of state for external affairs Eduardo Faleiro has consistently said young Israeli tourists were bad news for Goa.
“There is abundant evidence that Israeli tourists cause enormous damage to the social and cultural fabric of our state. They do not contribute to the Goan economy. They want to derive maximum benefit from minimum expenditure,” Faleiro said.
Israel too has tried to explore opportunities to tap Goa, a state which has a 26 percent Catholic population, as a market for religious tourism on its soil. Israel has been the cradle for many faiths, including Christianity.