A Tel Aviv in Himachal: Know why this village is a hot spot for Israeli tourists
Politics aside, one reason that may have prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to don the Himachali cap during his visit to Israel could be the close ties the hill state enjoys with Israeli travelers.
Every year, Himachal plays host to thousands of Israelis on break after two years of compulsory service with the Israeli army. Such is their number and presence in Dharamkot, a verdant village in the Dhauladhars, that it’s been re-christened the Tel Aviv of the hills.
Isareli visitors start flocking to the hill state in March and their number continues to surge until October, when many of them move to Goa. Kangra Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Gandhi said 800 Israelis have already registered with the police so far. “Last year, their number had gone up to 3,000,” said Gandhi, adding that these figures could be higher as many Israelis who register in Kullu, overlook the registration process at Kangra.
Meical, a young woman, who took a flight to India soon after finishing her conscription, said Israelis see India as a second home. “We love India. Israelis have a great fascination for this country, its culture, history and the people.”
Thirteen kilometres from Dharamshala, Dharamkot can pass off as an Israeli settlement given the number of Hebrew signanges that dot the area. It also has a towering four-storeyed Chabad House (Jewish community centre) with several members in black top hats. The guest houses in the village are almost always occupied by Israelis. And falafel with hummus is a common fare at the hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
Michael Alon, who is here with a group from Tel Avi, gives another insight into their collective fascination for Himachal, when he says, “Israel is all about cities and deserts. We love these hills, they inspire us towards spirituality.”
Locals say Israelis live in groups and rarely mix with others. Most part of the day, they enjoy eating, drinking and chatting while a few try to explore the tranquil Himalayas and trek to the overlooking mountains.
In the evening they gather at the Chhabad house, which stands in the middle of the village.
Kasol village in Kullu is another favorite haunt of the Israelis.
“We sing, we dance, we want to enjoy day and night. No place can be better than these peaceful villages, tucked deep in the Himalayas,” said Areyah, another Israeli.
A local who runs a makeshift eating joint in the village claims Israelis are also drawn to Himachal due to the easy supply of narcotics. While the police are tight-lipped about this, there was a crackdown on rave parties at Kasol in 2013.