Six months ago, nineteen Jews broke the usual partisan norms when it comes to visiting the “Holy Land” by choosing to hear not only the Israeli Zionist narrative—with which most of them are already familiar—but also pushing themselves to learn and experience the Palestinian narrative on their synagogue’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. They chose to shatter the classical stereotype of tourists who come to Israel to experience the luxurious hotels and touchstone religious sites but that prevent them from experiencing the “other” important local culture.
Tourism packages excel in keeping tourists in a bubble. The guests visit restaurants, hotels, and venues that are designed to give them the illusion of having a local experience, without having to step outside their comfort zone. Tourism in Israel and Palestine is largely dependent on “religious” pilgrimage trips where tourists are rushed from one archaeological site to another without fulfilling the spiritual aspect of the trip they had aspired to experience.
This kind of tourism doesn’t characterize all visitors to the Holy Land, however, because there is emerging lately an alternative kind of tourism. There are people who have interests that go beyond the usual religious sites. They understand religious pilgrimage to mean creating a connection with the land, the people and the culture. Such special people choose to come for an educational and practical experience. This not to say they avoid typical sites, nor do they fail to indulge in relaxing and luxurious experiences, but they refuse to ignore the full potential of a Holy Land trip...Thereby shattering the stereotype that all Jews are smart.