Hot tips for Jewish travellers
We are known for jetting off with everything barring the kitchen sink, but there are a number of until now unwritten tips which govern the way we travel.
Here is some advice you might want to consider for your next holiday, whether you’re going to Beaufort West or the Bahamas.
Before going anywhere, read up on the history and current affairs of the location you are considering visiting, and make sure to be as thorough as possible. You don’t want to be branded an ignoramus when confronted with a landmark you are unable to identify.
Instead, you want to be an expert not only on the sites, but the people, their food, their families, and whether their children have married into good families or not – heaven forbid! The intricacies of Jewish geography can spring up anywhere.
Then you’ll want to consider what to pack. In theory, how much you pack depends partially on how long you’ll stay. However, you’ll probably want to ensure that your apparel is de rigueur (current fashion) wherever you are, as you wouldn’t want to give your community a bad name.
With this in mind, be sure to include in your luggage every possible colour combination to complement your surroundings. Heading to the Kruger Park? Leopard print cannot go amiss. Men can find a suitably-patterned kippa for any setting, so they have no excuse for failing to blend in anywhere, be it the red-light district or the Vatican.
When you’re a traveller with dietary restrictions, there are logistical challenges. Be aware that not every delicacy you come across is kosher, nor is it guaranteed to be as flavourful as your mother’s.
Imagine walking down the bustling streets of Bangkok, passing street food vendors hawking their wares, and delectable smells wafting your way. What you see might look like Shabbos cholent, but it isn’t necessarily so.
It might be worth looking up kosher restaurants in the area (as suggested in an article on page VIII) before going out in search of supper or befriending local Jewish residents who seem like the sort to invite strange, foreign Jews into their homes.
You are still encouraged to take food with you – how much and what will depend on whether you suffer from heartburn, the amount your family can eat, and what you usually enjoy at the Shabbos table.
Remember that Shabbos customs tend to differ around the globe, and what is true of Glenhazel might not be so in Madrid. Note that ring-fighting bulls pass through all local shuls during Kabbalat Shabbat, and this is a perfectly normal phenomenon.
Sing along to tunes which are not familiar to you as loudly as possible, as this will show the locals that you are eager to envelop yourself in their community’s practices.
It is advisable that you take a ready-to-use Shabbat kit wherever you go. Simply put all essential Shabbat items in a large ziplock bag, including matches, tea lights, a box of matzah crackers, a small grape juice, a cholent pot, the fine glaze Royal Dalton dinner service, and a 12-seater Shabbos table (complete with tablecloth, table runner, the good napkins, bobba’s challah board, and bobba herself).
It goes without saying that you should commit to memory a few useful words and phrases in the local language. These should include appropriately translated equivalents of, “I don’t eat anything that is not gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and contains no traces of animal products,” as well as, “When my aunt visited this place, she said that…”
Locals will always appreciate hearing you speak their mother tongue, so no matter how much they insist that you speak English, continue to make those strangled sounds your audiobook taught you, and you’ll ensure you are understood and welcomed.
If all else fails, remember that a Chabad House can be found within a 10km radius of your location. To make your search as discreet and unobtrusive as possible, always carry a picture of the Rebbe with you, and flash it at anyone who looks like they could direct you to Chabad. Remember to be persistent, and break into a rousing chorus of “Mashiach” if all else fails. They’ll get the hint.