Jewish Tourism

Listen up, my fellow Jews.  Before you plan your next vacation, don’t you think it only makes sense to avoid those countries that are unfriendly or downright hostile to Jews (oftentimes carefully hidden behind a pretense of being anti-Israel rather than anti-Semitic), especially when there are more than enough wonderful countries where you will be welcomed and respected?  Luckily for you, I have put together a list of what I like to call the FiJi nations (“Friendylish to the Jewish”) to make your vacation-planning much easier.  Most of the countries on this list have earned their place by demonstrating through concrete action that they support Israel while others merit inclusion by having made courageous efforts to protect their Jewish residents during the Holocaust.

Let’s start with those countries that supported the U.S. move of its embassy to Jerusalem, an important gesture that indicated respect for Israeli sovereignty and historical roots.  Those countries (in no particular order) are Guatemala , Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo, all of whom voted against the U.N. condemnation of the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and several of whom have agreed to move their embassies as well.  None of these countries sends significant amounts of money to the Palestinian Authority and all of them have been friendly to Israel on a variety of issues and in numerous forums.  Lots of warm, exotic destinations on this list so Jews shouldn’t have any trouble finding an enjoyable vacation spot.

Another group of desirable tourist destinations are those countries that voted against or abstained on the U.N. embassy-move resolution but have subsequently expressed support for the move and have hinted that they may follow suit.  These countries have also publicly backed Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists in whatever fashion Israel deems appropriate.  These countries are the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.  Exotic, picturesque, lots to see in each of those countries.

Two other countries deserve our support because they are publicly and unashamedly increasing their economic, scientific and cultural interactions with Israel, namely India and China.  Both have expanded trade and other relationships with Israel and have welcomed state-sanctioned visits by Israeli politicians, academics, artists and business people.  Visiting these countries is a win-win situation for Jews.  They get your dollars and you get to interact with a group of people who’ve had limited contact with Jews, giving you a wonderful opportunity to dispel myths and misunderstandings and educate your hosts about the realities of Jewish life and Israel.

Another country on the ‘preferred’ list is Portugal.  They should inhabit a special place in the heart of all Jews because they were the only country in Europe during the Yom Kippur War to allow American re-supply aircraft to refuel on their territory (the Azores to be exact) on their way to Israel.  If not for Portugal’s courage, Israel’s very existence might have been in peril.  Quite the contrast to Germany which would not even allow American aircraft to fly through their airspace let alone refuel at the Americans’ own bases in Germany.  We should also be cognizant of Portugal’s actions during World War Two when they issued thousands of visas to Jews throughout eastern Europe, thereby rescuing a significant number of Jews from certain death in German concentration camps.

Other countries which exhibited relatively commendable behavior during the Holocaust (and thereby earned their place on the FiJi list) are Bulgaria (which managed to protect virtually every one of their 50,000 Jews), Sweden (which provided a safe haven to Denmark’s 8,000 Jews as well as a significant number of Jews from Norway), and somewhat surprisingly, Italy (Mussolini’s half-hearted cooperation with the Germans allowed more than 7,000 of Italy’s 45,000 Jews to flee while another 30,000 or so Jews were sheltered and protected by Italian citizens).

Want another great place to holiday?  How about the United States? The U.S. was a reliable partner for Israel from the very beginning, ensuring the establishment and international acceptance of the Jewish state in 1948.  It was the U.S. which provided the weaponry and materials that allowed Israel to defeat her enemies in 1973.  It is and always has been the U.S. that Israel can count on for support in the U.N. and wherever and whenever a bulwark against a generally hostile world is needed.  There has been the occasional hiccup in the relationship (I’m talking to you, Mr. Obama) but the current U.S. administration does not hide its affection and respect for Israel and Jews should be grateful for the ‘big brother’ who always has our back.  Luckily for Jewish tourists, the U.S. has a myriad of attractions so it should be no problem to find the perfect American holiday getaway.

Finally, there is the obvious destination of choice for discerning Jewish tourists: Israel.  No matter how many times you’ve visited, there is always something new (or comfortably familiar) to see that will astonish you, exhilarate you, re-connect you to your roots.  You’re also helping the Israeli economy and your fellow Jews when you spend those shekels.

So now you have an extensive list of preferable vacation spots … bon voyage !

About the Author
Businessman, son of Holocaust survivors, father of two, grandfather of one, married for 43 years. Born in Israel but lived in Canada for most of my life. Proud and vocal Zionist.
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