One of the phrases I often hear my Israeli friends joke about is their home being “the Holy Land”. While I’m unsure how many of them actually believe in this term, I am aware that they make fun of this term because it is the one people associate most with their country.
With the capital Jerusalem being a religious hub for many of the major religions, and the ongoing disputes and wars involving Israel having a largely religious aspect to it, it is not entirely surprising that this may happen. However, this doesn’t make it right.
Unfortunately, a quick look at various outlets that provide an insight into Israel as a tourist destination, confirm this theme of essentialisation:
I have seen many of my friends and colleagues be approached by people who believe Israel to be the “promised land” and seen anti-semitic obscenities being hurled at them. The only common thing in these scenarios appeared to be the perception that the “real Israel” is purely religious and/or political. In fact, most of the time, the citizens have had to pay for the government’s decisions and actions.
This essentialisation is criticised by Massey as a form of holding onto the past and only one aspect of the place. He suggests that this can be rectified by taking into account the global position of the country, socially and culturally, while also observing the relationship of the place to its past. This is especially important for a country like Israel, as most people cannot get over the political and religious turmoil that surrounds the state.
Some of the things to be done to move away from essentialism could be:
- changing tourism marketing angle (government/travel writers/advisors)
- government policies reflect inclusivity and diversity
- develop and promote cities other than Jerusalem
- tourists being more open-minded