Here’s one of the biggest curiosities of modern Israeli identity. On Passover, when Jews celebrate leaving Egypt in ancient times, thousands of Israelis return there. Sinai, a popular holiday destination year-round, is an especially big hit with Israelis. This is despite the repeated travel warnings from the Israeli government, which suggest that Israeli tourists in Sinai are potential terror targets. This is, after all, the territory though which arms are smuggled to Gaza.
But researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have concluded in a new paper that terrorism comes surprisingly low on Israelis’ list of concerns when going to Sinai. They found that tourists there are first concerned about their “relations with their local hosts — Egyptians and Bedouins.” Second up was “standard and quality of hospitality — food quality, sanitation and hygiene standards.” Only after these two considerations were people concerned with “the risk of terrorism.”
Why are Israelis relatively unworried about terrorism in Sinai, despite government warnings? The researchers present several rationales cited by holidaymakers, including:
- Risks are high at Jewish holidays and lower at other times
- Their hosts will protect them
- The chances of terrorism decrease closer to the border with Israel
- The presence of police forces serves as a deterrent
- The media enhances the sense of danger in the Sinai
- The chances of a terrorist attack in Israel are greater than in Sinai
Interestingly, the researchers found that fear of terrorism decreases among those with leftist political views. They also found a stereotypically Jewish trait in the way that Israeli visitors to Sinai think about security: More than being worried about something happening to them, they are worried about relatives back home worrying.