Who are the Israeli Backpackers?
You can encounter these young people all over the world. On a yearly basis, it is estimated that about 75,000 young Israeli travel around the world with their backpack. About two-thirds of them go to Asia and many others go to South- America and countries like Australia and New-Zealand. But, as we said before, you can find them everywhere.
Most of them come from secular families. At least one third of those who leave the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces), go backpacking. Most of them are between 22 and 25 years old. Those who go backpacking directly after their military service, mainly travel to India and South-America for the nightlife experience and drugs. Others will study or work first and then leave for New-Zealand, Australia and also South-America. They are more interested in wandering in nature, mountain climbing and canoeing.
Their backpacking is inextricably linked to their time in military service, as the stream of backpackers started after the Yom Kippur war. After 1948, this war has caused the highest number of casualties in Israel. Since then every genera- tion has had its own war. Since the foundation of the state of Israel, some 25,000 Israeli have been killed during war or by terroristic attacks. About 100,000 vete- rans are handicapped for life and another 100,000 have been injured. Obviously, this has a great impact on the Israeli society and especially on the young people who have to join the army at the age of 18.
Many backpackers try to forget their army experiences. At the same time, we see that they keep their habits from the army during their travels. They travel around in groups, using exact schedules and challenging each other to overcome difficulties. They still use military jargon. They say for example, “We have conquered Cuzco”, instead of “We have been in Cuzco”. It is even noticeable in the way they name their groups: backpackers who keep on travelling from one place to another are called Conquerors. If they settle down somewhere, they are called Settlers.
Their time in military service plays an important role. Of course, not all soldiers are traumatized. The ones without a trauma also have their reasons to go back- packing. Some of them have had a quite mundane job at the IDF office. They go backpacking to prove themselves.
Others try to escape the pressure of Israeli life. This pressure has many causes. The constant threat of attacks, but also the tension of social control by their clo- se-knit families and their rabbis. Further, there are the internal conflicts bet- ween ideologies. Religious Israeli are getting stricter all the time, whilst secular Israeli more and more loosen up.
Apart from an attempt to escape, backpacking is also a way to explore new things. As long as they are in the army, these youngsters are nothing more than a number. For two or three years, their identity is determined by the army and therefore their trip is also a search for their identity. Some researchers describe it as a secular pilgrimage. A spiritual experience, not necessarily connected to a certain religion.
Israeli backpackers are not always well-behaved. Please, try not to take notice of that. Consider instead the cause of their undesirable behaviour. Many of them act out of pain and they need our love and understanding. If we do not reach them, they will be caught up in anything the world offers.
Backpackers carry all their luggage on their back and so they will not be very eager to add a big book to it. Therefore, we have published a special edition of the New Testament and Psalms for them. This edition is small, light and has a sustainable cover with a zipper.
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