[Reader-list] Toe Rings, Rave Music and India/Goa - just for Israelis (fwd)

Patrice Riemens patrice at xs4all.nl
Wed Feb 27 14:24:08 IST 2002

----- Forwarded message from Goa Desc <goadesc at goatelecom.com> -----

Subject: Toe Rings, Rave Music and India (Just for Israelis)
From: Goa Desc <goadesc at goatelecom.com> (by way of FREDERICK NORONHA
<fred at bytesforall.org>)
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 00:40:45 +0530


February 7, 2002

Toe Rings, Rave Music and India (Just for Israelis)

ANJUNA BEACH, India  Hebrew-language banners flutter improbably in the sea
breeze here while a poster of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher
sage from Brooklyn, keeps a watchful eye on the youngsters on their way to
the next full-moon trance party on the beach.
Goa, a onetime Portuguese colony on this sliver of India's west coast, is
now a shrine on the Israeli ravers' pilgrimage through India  the
birthplace of the mind-numbing electronic dance music called Goa trance.
For Israelis craving an escape from the pressure of home, often after a
prolonged stint in the army, India has become the refuge of choice.
Judging by the accounts of Israelie, the contrast between home and here
could not be more stark. An explosion usually signals fireworks in the sky.
The only army you are likely to see is that of enterprising peddlers
hawking toe rings and sarongs on the beach, often in passable Hebrew.
One recent day, the revelers here on Israeli Beach, as the non-Israelis
call it, were busy hoisting a giant glow-in-the-dark mushroom for a trance
party scheduled to get under way at midnight.
Never mind the troubles that have kept the well-heeled Western tourists
from the Indian subcontinent. The Israelis, used to violence at home, are
"The more trouble there is, the more we come," said Shira Agasi, a serious,
bespectacled woman of 21 who had traversed the Israeli circuit in India,
from Manali in the north to Varanasi in the east to here, since finishing a
two-year stint in the intelligence division of the Israeli Air Force.
"I hope we can bring it to Israel, this atmosphere," her friend Riki Levy,
20, added wistfully, staring at the sea, engulfed in twilight indigo.
The end of the cold war opened diplomatic relations between India and
Israel barely 10 years ago. Since then the two countries have expanded
trade ties and shared intelligence. Today a substantial portion of India's
military budget is spent on Israeli arms and military training. A common
enemy, Islamic radicalism, helps cement bonds.
Meanwhile, the unofficial side of these bilateral ties flowers in seaside
villages like this one.
In 2000 more than 60,000 Israelis visited India, according to the Israeli
consul general in Bombay, Dov Steinberg.
While no exact figures are available on how many of them come to Goa, word
of mouth on the young Israeli travel circuit and the range of services that
cater to their needs, from falafel at the restaurants to rooms for as low
as $4 a night, makes Goa a frequent stop. for many.
So for the last several years they have flocked to these beaches, most of
them fresh from the frazzle of military service, lured by the notion that
the sea and the mysteries of India and fat chillum pipes stuffed with
hashish will offer answers to life's big questions.
A handful have been arrested on drug charges and sentenced to the local jail.
"There's a fantasy: you think here you'll know what you want to do," is how
Lior Naveh, 25, a native of the Tel Aviv area, put it as he watched the sun
set before clambering up a hill to a rave at the famous Nine Bar, a sand
pit with fake caves serving as the D.J.'s booth. But, he added, "I still
don't know what I want to do."
So powerfully has India gripped the Israeli imagination that it has figured
in television serials, as the subject of at least one recent novel, A. B.
Yehoshua's "Return to India," and in a film based on the novel, to be
released soon.
Published in 1994 in Israel, the novel  titled "Open Heart" in its English
translation  tells the story of an Israeli doctor who travels to India to
rescue a young compatriot who has fallen ill. The doctor, in turn, falls
under the spell of Indian mysticism.
Jews have a long history in India. There is a 400-year-old synagogue in
Cochin, an overnight train ride from Goa, and as many Indians say with
great pride, theirs is one of the few nations where Jews have not been
But the Israeli fascination with this place has to do with something else.
To most Israelis, Mr. Yehoshua argued, India represents a country of many
cultures and beliefs, a place where you are not under pressure all the
time. The tourists generally do not come here to ride the packed trains of
Bombay or reflect on the communal riots that litter this country's past.
Young Israelis come armed with lessons on how to get by in Goa, from the
price of an auto-rickshaw ride to how much to haggle on the price of a
hand-embroidered handbag to the names of clubs. "We knew exactly about this
place when we were in Israel," Ms. Agasi said.
Escape it might be, but some things do not change. Friday evenings find
diners at many restaurants in the area lighting a candle, reciting a
Sabbath prayer.
Bumper stickers and posters scattered all over Anjuna hawk the virtues of
one Jewish sect or another.
At the small shops that offer Internet access, the latest news from Israel
is always a click away. When word spreads through the grapevine, as it
usually does these days, of violence back home, a steady stream of Israelis
pours into the long-distance telephone booths to call home.

Documentation + Education + Solidarity
11 Liberty Apts., Feira Alta, Mapusa, Goa 403 507
Tel: 252660 mailto:goadesc at goatelecom.com
Working On Issues Of Development & Democracy

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