People talking without thinking*

The other night my husband and I went to see a play in Tel Aviv at the Cameri Theater. The plays are always in Hebrew because that is the language of the country, but some evenings they have a superscript in English- a short very-wide sign above the top of the curtain on which is projected the English translation as the dialogue progresses. That night we were surprised to see the play would be superscripted in English.

Not long after we sat down, a group of American tourists filed in and sat down. The woman to my husband’s right started to talk to him and to me and in the course of our conversation, she talked about the fact that they were having a total experience of Israel from museums to theater to lectures and places of interest. We mentioned that we are very careful to give the people who travel with us as rich an experience as possible. When we mentioned that we led tours to China, she said she was “boycotting China because they oppress their people and things are getting worse and worse.”

When we told her that although we think that a different form of government is desirable, the Chinese government has been taking very good care of its people and there is a sense of excitement and freedom in the country. The people everywhere we travel are smiling and happy– and we travel to numerous cities, some of them VERY far off the beaten path (one city we went to can only be reached by road- no airport, no train- and the ride to the next city takes 12 hours! Two cities we went to were ONLY 8 hours from the nearest city.)

And then I mentioned that in one village where we frequently take our groups, we used to take them to see how the village people lived. We took them to a place where we walked into an alley and to our left was the pig sty. It was also the bathroom (no plumbing). Further on, we entered a main room that was where people were born and where they were laid out when they died. There were 6 rooms that opened into the main room. Each room contained one family. In the back of the house there were two small, very primitive kitchens (water brought by bucket, cooking over fire.) This past October when I took my group to that village, the house had been razed and the people were living in brand new apartments that had been built in the few months since my last visit. Our local guide told us that no one in that village was living without indoor plumbing anymore.

The woman tourist we were talking to said, “But did the people have a CHOICE as to whether they wanted to move?”

On Hebrew we would say, “Nu- b’emet!!!” In English I said, “You have GOT to be kidding!”

My mistake. I shouldn’t have confronted her preconceived notions with the truth.

*Thanks to Simon and Garfunkle– I miss you guys!

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  1. Are you really in Israel, i have a friend who lives in Haifa, named merith abraham. If you ever come across that name or phone number, email me at


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