ko chang
Not me, by the way

As much as I hate admitting it, while I love Israel, I am not generally enamored of its people. Call me a self hating Israeli if you must. At home my social circle safely consists of mostly ex-pats and the occasional approved Israeli. Out here in Thailand however, I can’t spit without hitting a Hebrew speaker, and what the heck, it’s a little bit of familiarity in a foreign place.

While Israelis moving in packs of three or more are generally loud, obnoxious and unbearable, one or two of them can be fun. So today I hit the open seas in a tri-ak with two of my co-nationalists.

But first an aside: An interesting thing happened on the way to this little island near the Cambodian border – an all too significant amount of money got stolen out of my room. More than the financial loss, which after a days perspective I realize is NOT the end of the world, the real loss was my sense of confidence and safety as a traveler.

It seems the act shook me to the point that out of the turquoise sea today I reverted back to my totally American Jewish understanding of the world and it’s dangers.

For instance, at one point we were approaching a fishing boat far from shore. The Israelis call out to whoever is on board and no one answers, even when we are close enough to almost step right on deck. The ship seems abandoned, nets acast, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one thinking the obvious, they’ve all been eaten by sharks and we’re next.

Still undeterred by this terror, the Israelis (straight out of the army and with the arrogance of invincibility I might add, all except for the vigilant use of sunscreen) row on to a cliff which they scale to jump back into the ocean, assuring me that there is a small spot where the jagged rocks underneath the surface are far down enough.

despite their successful jumps, all I could see was a vision of them awkwardly swimming the kayak back to shore, carrying me and my bloody broken leg. The blood would of course attract the aforementioned sharks, the Israelis, despite putting up a good fight, would be eaten, and the shark, now full, would leave me to drift out to sea and die of dehydration and blood loss.

This is how my brain works. It’s a combination of saturation levels of cinema and growing up a Jew in America, with a history of genetic neurosis that dates back even farther than Woody Allen. As American Jews, we are taught that part of our cultural heritage is worry. If we don’t worry, something might happen. As if it is our concentration on the worst case scenario that is precisely the thing that keeps it from happening.

I loathe it, and I would rather my kids grow up secure in abilities of their own bodies and jumping from cliffs than staying at home afraid of an allergy attack. It’s the grab life by the balls mentality that I like about Israelis, even when they are embarrassing on other levels.

For instance – what on God’s green earth makes Israeli men (and sometimes women) think that underwear is an acceptable substitute for proper swim wear (not that speedos are proper swim wear)? There is nothing less attractive on a man than a pair of wet, sagging, slightly see through briefs. Really though, if we could figure out why they think this is ok, I feel we will have unlocked part of the puzzle of why Israelis act like they do.

As for me, I just gotta watch out for falling coconuts. No, really, they can kill you….

About the author

Laya Millman


  • I would rather my kids grow up secure in abilities of their own bodies…

    I’m sorry, did you just refer to having children without the standard aside about how much you hate them? What are they feeding you in Thailand? Did that guy who stole your money slip Clomid into your noodle soup? Or maybe you weren’t vigilant enough and a coconut fell on your head?

    Seriously! We’re worried about you here in Israel!

  • I’m not sure that it is as much a function of being Jewish American as just American. If you watch “The Beach” (and I don’t suggest doing so until you are back in the relative safety of Israel) you will see that Americans are mostly neurotic travelers, and that Europeans of all stripes are more adventurous than we are. Also they ascribe to the “underwear as swimwear” school of thought.

    Yet another reason why Israelis are closer to Europeans than Americans in culture.

  • Laya, I think what you are describing is post-Holocaust fear–and why not? Jews are a tiny minority on this earth and there are many who dislike us. As for the Israelis, well, that’s one of the great things about Israel: they have been bred to be courageous. There’s no other choice, really.

  • Wouldn’t you rather die than never ever swim in your life, or travel outside your country, or worship? I think your typical Israeli is prepared to die more so than most.

  • If you don’t have your swimming trunks and you want to swim, then you have two options: swim in your underwear or swim naked. What else is there to do?

  • Lay, thanks for sharing your thoughts and the disclaimered photo. Way to stave off those inappropriate comments from our regular bunch of boob-seekers. For what it’s worth, my mind cinematizes things too. I’ve had that shark image occur to me every time I swim in a natural body of water. Even if I’m only ankle deep–BAM, there’s gotta be a hungry shark or a hungry stingray that will find me and make me dinner. And not in the way I always dreamed someone would make me dinner. You know.

    And if anyone has a burning desire to PayPal me money, feel free…

  • Yeah. What muffti said. At least I’ve never been misaken for Jennifer Anniston, hair and all, from behind…. GayBlondeMales.com anyone?

    And uh… thanks for the audio clip muffti.

  • oops, Grand Muffti means, low blows, CK! Jennifer Aniston never recieved a better indirect compliment!

    As for the audio clip, Muffti heard Rabbi Yo’s and wanted to contribute a song to brighten people’s day. Unfortunately, the Grand Muffti not gifted with a voice melodic enough and so he called on Pantera to contribute where he couldn’t.

  • First of all I would like to thank you for being such an interesting blogger.
    Secondly, I would like to comment on your first two paragraphs…
    I find that most Israelis that have lived separated from an Israeli community for a prolonged length of time seem to have the same feelings towards their countrymen as you have described.
    I find it brutally honest and a very good description of what many of us feel.
    While I feel a little sad that we have become critical of our brethren’s behavior, and even go as far as to avoid them (at times)….I think it is fair to say that we hold ourselves to a higher moral standard and we wish to hold our countrymen to the same standard.

  • LoL right on the money Laya, having spent some time in South America with Israelis, and being raised in Brooklyn most of my life, I can really really relate.!

  • Michael: did you just refer to having children without the standard aside about how much you hate them

    In this case I was using the term “children” allegorically to really mean a fantasy of a reborn me, which is, after all, why most people have children – they just don’t understand the allegory.

    Aron – i tried to never have all the cash on me at once, that way, if my bag got stolen while I was out (which seemed more likely), i wouldn’t be dead in the water. Was it a good plan? guess not.

    Finnish – these boys have been traveling 6 months. They have been on many beaches and have had multiple opportunities to buy swim trunks which are sold everywhere. The choice was a conscious one, and I find it mighty disturbing.

    Tracy – It does seem like I am a thief magnet. Just last night in fact , one of the aforementioned Israelis stole some medication from me. Who does that??
    And hey, I’m always up donations! If you really want you can paypal some cash to millmanl [at] yahoo.com.

    Esther – ankle deep? Try right on shore – it’s Land Shark!

  • Try traveling with my wife… and she´s just a jewish european mongrel of polish/russian german shetls and ghettos with some folklore swede thrown in.
    We are old one time hardcore multiple overland travelers to India ex hippies (standing room on 3rd class 48 hour train rides is for sissies types.) Nowadays the special travel rules increase without stop or (normal) reason. Once again we are on our way to asia and :
    We must now always fly a major well established international air carrier (no aeroflops or afghanicharter) which nooobody (ie. terrorists and such riffraff) knows about…
    After you eliminate all european, american (arabs aint even in the running and africa..!)
    who does that leave? I´m not telling you, in case you leak it to Hizbollah or something.
    After the tsunami Islands smaller than greenland are all out, beaches are OK. but must be at least 1000 kilometers inland and sterile of all possible dangerous and ugly (or irrititating) animal life.
    We recently hastily left a ( I admit, a more ramshackle than “picturesque”) local bus (after 2 hours waiting time spent in increasing wifely agitation and frantic pacing between bus and “derparture” hall).
    This despite the fact that, as I pointed out to my wife, the 2 buddhist monks sitting in the front were a win win situation.
    Their presence either insured that our trip would be bathed in good karma or if the worst should occur we would all hop over at least 300000 lives on the reincarnation wheel.
    To no avail,as we hastily (very hastily and suddenly) left the bus just as it was weakly attempting to start I heard the natives laughing in unbridled amusement and entertainment. I imagine even as i write somewhere in the mountains of thailand some sleeepy child is begging her grandfather to once again tell her the tale of the paniced farangi woman and her wimpy husband…
    Sigh. My manhood is still diminished.
    This year things are worsened by the fact that I shall be remaining behind for some weeks once my wife returns to Sweden.
    I am forbidden to do absolutely anything or go anywhere that might convert an irritating, but still useable, husband to shark poop, road kill, plague victim or floozy toy.
    I will soon be issuing my own series of travel books “Super adventerous, exotic Travel to out of the way places for the very very very nervous”. My first book will be “travel without worry in your own hood”
    I´m looking forward to our trip.

  • I usually spend my time walking alot when I am in foreign country.

    I enjoy to visit especially medieval gothic cities.

    I can get really lost in all of that.

    It seems that visiting the Far East, is not that much of a special delight because of how touristic it has become.

    It is similar to Amsterdam which just a major pain in the ass tourist trap.

    I will be avoiding it on my journey Europe which will take place God willing in the winter months.

    Love the new website,