In June of 2012, news headlines declared that: “Ex-Israeli Soldiers Holidaying in Goa are Dehumanised.” The story was based on an open letter from June 11, 2012 that was sent by Fr. Maverick Fernandes declaring “solidarity from Goa to our sisters and brothers who suffer under Israeli occupation and still struggle in dignity for their liberation.”
The letter described: “Three years ago, for the first time, we sprung into action when we decided to study the issue of Israelis who had completed their term in the IDF and who turned up on the shores of Goa to overlook and disregard their actions while on military duty. Our study revealed how dehumanized these young people had become and how, because of an oppressive and cruel system of illegal military occupation, even the victimizers had turned casualties and victims of their own cruelties.”
Fr. Fernandes claimed that for the Israelis “the night here never ends. They just party with trance music and get intoxicated with drugs and alcohol. “Can you imagine young boys killing people? They go mad while in service. The (Israeli) government sends these people to hubs like Bangkok, Goa and Bali.”
The news accounts and the letter ignored what the study actually revealed about Israelis in Goa. The research did not find Israelis to be dehumanized, they were not sent to Goa by the Israeli government after military service, and the students reported many positive observations of Israelis.
Indeed, instead of Israelis being involved with drugs, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detained six police officers on June 1, 2012 and charged them with conspiracy for allegedly planting drugs on Israeli David Driham, who was on a business visa in Goa in 2010. The CBI said the accused police, who were part of an anti-narcotics cell, had fabricated the case against Driham, whom they claimed was a drug-dealer when he was held with a cocktail of drugs worth 381,000 rupees (6,800 dollars).
The letter describing Israelis as dehumanized was signed by Fr. Maverick Fernandes as Executive Secretary, Council for Social Justice and Peace, Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. Fr. Maverick Fernandes is also Director of Caritas Goa, a charitable Society/Organization of the Archdiocese that addresses concerns related to the welfare and the upliftment of the downtrodden, social outcasts, etc.
Caritas Goa is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Roman Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Collectively and individually their mission is to work to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed.
Caritas Internationalis is known for its activism in the social realm, often in opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It has generally taken an anti-Israel position and in support of the “Palestinian People.” As a consequence of its activities, new rules were announced on May 2, 2012 by the Vatican in which the operations of Caritas Internationalis will be more closely overseen and all Caritas Internationalis statements -- particularly "any text with doctrinal or moral content or orientations" -- and activities will have to be authorized in advance by the Vatican, except in case of "grave humanitarian emergencies."
Fr. Maverick Fernandes in his letter writes that as a first step, we wish to respond to your call to “Come and See”- a major chapter in the Kairos document issued by Palestinian Christians in 2009. We respond because we want to understand the facts on-the-ground and bear witness to your agonizing reality and respond as you ask “to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land”.
We desire to respond to the Bethlehem Call and say as you ask: “here-we-stand, stand-with-us” and join your journey of justice as a “joyous blessing and honour, difficult though the journey may be.”
The Kairos document, signed by 9 Christian clergymen and 6 lay people, meeting in Bethlehem on December 11, 2009, declared that "the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God."
Kairos exploits themes to demonize Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, and ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed by Palestinians against Christians.
The document reflects “replacement theology,” the medieval view that the Church has replaced the people of Israel in God’s plan and that all biblical references to Israel refer to the “new Israel”—that is, to Christians. This view was rejected in the Catholic Church by Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions in 1965 that refers to the bond that ties the people of the 'New Covenant' (Christians) to Abraham's stock (Jews).
Instead of attacking Israel, Fr. Maverick Fernandes might consider the history of his own church’s encounter with the Jewish People. The Catholic Church of Goa has its own record of cruelty to the Jewish People to which they might be expected to repent. Historian and author Gunnar W. Knutsen writes that this tiny state of India was the centre of the cruelest inquisition on planet Earth.
In 1542 A.D there were 200.000 people living in Old Goa. The Inquisition started in 1560 A.D. and lasted for 252 years. There were more than 16,000 trials in Old Goa and at least 500 people lost their lives.
It was the fight against Maranos, or crypto-Jews, which was the official ideology behind the tribunal of the Inquisition in Goa. The crypto-Jews were Jews who officially had converted to Catholicism, but still celebrated Jewish traditions and the Sabbath in secret.
India was far away from Europe, and the Portuguese authorities and the Roman Catholic Church had freer hands than on their home turfs. The Tribunal in Goa got the authority to arrest and transport to Goa people from all the Portuguese colonies on the East Coast of Africa, West cost of India, Sri Lanka, The spice Island of Indonesia and Portuguese China.
Despite the misrepresentation of its findings, it is still possible to learn something about Israelis in Goa from the student project. The students were given an assignment based on assumptions regarding Israeli tourists. The observations they reported failed to authenticate the assumptions.
The report cited by Fr. Maverick Fernandes is titled "Claiming the Right to Say No.” It was published in October 2009 with an introduction by Dr. Victor Ferrao of the
The full report can be read by pressing here.
In 2008 the Philosophy Department of Rachol Seminary, Goa organized a three day seminar on 'impact assessment of tourism' for its students. Eleven students participated in the study on Israeli tourist behavior in Goa. Tourist arrivals in Goa are around 2.6 millions with an 85% total share of domestic tourists.
Dr. Victor Ferrao in the introduction discussed the narrative construction of Goa as an 'exotic other.' Hence, the tourist comes with expectations that are triggered by the narratives that they have received about Goa.
Dr. Victor Ferrao, without any evidence, described Israeli citizens who undergo a military training with its disciplined and strict environment, and then face encounters, the shoot-outs, that somehow distorts their psyche and thus becomes a burden to treat. So these people are sent on holidays by the Government of Israel to different destinations in order to recover themselves and Goa is one of the destinations.
Ferraro described Goa as noted for thefts, money laundering, sexual abuse, and so on. In a way, drugs have destabilized the progress in Goa. The drug mafias are targeting the youth who are the future of Goa.
The students were sent out to the field to confirm these initial observations. So what did they report about Israelis in Goa?
1. They could not find many Israelis and few of those they did locate had just completed their army service
The course instructor expected that Israelis were a high proportion of the foreign tourists and they were mostly young singles.
But this year (2007/2008) there were not many Israelis in Goa. The youngsters were not there, only the older ones on repeat visits.
At Aramboi there were many Israelis, but they were either in partners (couples) or with families.
This year most of the tourists were from Russia, Germany, England, U.K etc. Only few were from Israel.
First two days were very frustrating; we did not meet any of the Israeli tourists. We tried to get information from the other tourists and locals about the Israeli tourists. The locals told us that the Israeli tourist came in the month of August and now they have left. They also said that there was more influx of tourists like English and German in comparison to Israelis.
There was also a difficulty of identifying Israelis within a crowd of “foreign tourists.”
2. The Government of Israel does not pay Israelis to visit Goa
The course instructor believed that the Government of Israel pays those who complete military service to come to Goa.
After the military training the Government of Israel does not give many subsidies. He remarked "Whatever the Government pays is enough to buy cigarettes."
This year they were mostly with their families and with no support of their government.
3. The students observed cases of immorality but it occurred among tourists not from Israel
Israelis openly engage in immoral conduct
The trend of intake of cigarettes, drugs such as Ganja and other intoxicating stuff by the foreigners is very much and to great extent has been imbibed by the Indian tourists (not excluding the Goans). A lot of teenagers and young men and women of Indian nationality have really taken up to these various vices.
At the 9 Bar crowded with Indian tourists, at least two or three girls were ready to dance and looked to be wild.
I saw three beautiful girls exchanging some white powder sachets with each other outside the bathroom. They said they were from Bombay, so I left them.
For the first time I saw paedophilia in the open. An old foreigner was using four Indian boys of the age group 18-21 years. He was from England.
4. The students recorded their Positive Experiences with Israelis: Israelis were good people, family oriented, cultured folks
Israelis were a despicable people.
I came to know that they are very good people. Those who live as couples with their children live a good life. They are also very sociable.
There was a band of four Israelis. They are people who are very broad minded and open.
I met two Israeli men at the beach. They were in their sixties; they had been visiting Goa for the last nine to ten years and would stay for six months in Goa. They had their own sailing boats which they would ride after their game (mattka).
Then the Israeli came out of the water with his group. While we were simply passing by, he himself came to us to have a chat. He looked to be hyper all the time, sort of dancing mood. He was saying that he came to Goa to relax and enjoy life and nothing else. "Goa makes me happy; I come to enjoy life with my family" these were some of his remarks.
I find that Israeli people are good people. It means that only those who have settled in their life are good. They are communicative and gentle in their talks.
And to my delight, I met a group of Israelis; Ganib, a female computer teacher. More and Elone (males). They were residing in a hut at Palolem. In my tete-a-tete with them, I felt they were cultured folks.
5. The students recorded complaints about Israelis
a. Israelis are not friendly and don’t Mix
On the beach, the Israelis will be found together at a particular place.
They are seen mostly in groups.
The first remark which almost came from everyone was that Israelis are "non-friendly". They are isolated from rest of the foreigners. They like to have trance parties, put loud music and dance the whole night. They are very rough in their behaviour.
On the whole, most tourists appeared to be friendly except Israelis. The women looked exceptionally beautiful and also the men were muscular, rigid and good looking even better than the Russians.
I met an Israeli woman doing yoga. I appreciated her but she bluntly shook her head and asked me to make a move.
b. Israelis are frugal with their money and bargain for everything
These Israelis are real marketing champs. They bargain like anything.
The shack owners and those who were rendering services say the Israelis bargain a lot. They are stingy and opt for cheap tents (huts). They cook by themselves. They bargain the price
Upon enquiry in a shack, the owner replied that when one Israeli sees other Israelis they relate to each other and start living in one hut to save money.
c. Some Israelis operate businesses --- but this is common with a large number of nationalities
She has come to live in Goa for a few months and she will go back to Israel in March. The simple T-shirts are sold for Rs.700/-. Though she had a license, it does not please our ears to hear that tourists are coming to make money.
The flea market is well organized because there are certain sections allotted to certain groups of people. The Tibetans were with their stuff like necklaces, rings, jewellery, knifes of different kinds and also the instruments like 'didache'. On one side, the Kashmiri were with their blankets, carpets and other material.
The other section was full of foreigners. The stalls were owned by foreigners mostly from Israel, England, Finland and others like Italy, etc.
d. Israeli behavior is ill-mannered and aggressive
Locals there in Palolem experience Israeli tourists as cunning, dominating, violent and rowdy in their behaviour. I saw an Israeli couple misbehaving in an ice-cream parlour and talking rudely with the owner.