Michael Totten

The Kindness of Israelis

The warm welcome travelers experience in the Arab world is so well-known it has become a guidebook cliché, but the Arabs have earned it. Their part of the world seems to suffer from no end of grave and serious problems, but a dearth of manners and kindness for strangers isn’t one of them. Everything you have heard about their hospitality code is true. Even first-time visitors who expect it are often astonished — especially Americans who might be used to frosty receptions in Europe.

Less well-known is the hospitality of Israelis. Their reputation is on-par with that of New Yorkers. Aggressive security officials at the airport, yelling taxi drivers, and occasionally abusive wait staff can put people off. That sort of thing, though, accounts for less than 1 percent of my experience when working in Israel.

A few days ago, I announced that I’m leaving for Israel this week now that I’ve finished and sold my book, and the same thing happened that always does when I mention in public that I’m on my way over there. My in-box filled with offers of generous assistance from Israelis whom I’ve never met or even heard of. Most offered to buy me dinner. Some said I could sleep on their couch or in a spare bedroom. A few even offered to show me around, introduce me to people, and set up appointments for me. Some of these offers even showed up in my comments section.

This rarely happens when I go anywhere else in the world. It happens every time I’ve announced a trip to Israel, though, in times of peace and during war, and it has been happening to me for years.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.