Rowena, Laos

July 30, 2011

Hi Itay,

Nice meeting you here. I am planning to visit Israel one of these days. What are the safe places u would recomend if i were to visit Israel?

Is the cost of living allowance expensive there?

How are journalist treated in your own country?

Rowena,

The most dangerous place in is Israel, during these hot summer days, are the beaches of Tel-Aviv. If you walk along the seashore, on that thin strip that separates the water from the sand, you are putting yourself in great risk of severe head trauma.

Yes, the beaches of Tel-Aviv are a hazardous place. The reason for this insecurity is an Israeli sport called “Matkot”. Matkot is a bit like tennis, but without the elegance, white clothes and  aristocracy. It’s kind of hard to illustrate, so here is a link to a Youtube video that explains it all.

You see, the beaches of Tel-Aviv, or any other beach in Israel for that matter, is filled with annoying people playing Matkot. As you must understand, if you come to the beach, you’re putting yourself in great risk of getting hit in the head by a rubber ball traveling at about 80 km/h.

Apart for the wonderful yet dangerous beaches, all other places in Israel are pretty safe. I mean, you can always get hit by a car, catch the flu or sit in your office on the 86th floor and have an airplane smash into your window (here’s another Youtube clip to demonstrate), but all and all, it’s as safe as any other country in the world.

As for living allowance. Israel is not expensive, but certainly not cheap. There is a habit of checking the living allowance in different places by comparing the price of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes or a bottle of Coke. Well, a pack of Marlboro costs here about 6.5$ and a bottle of Coke is around 2.7$.

A year ago, “Business Week” magazine published a list of the world’s most expensive cities. Tel-Aviv was in 19th place, more expensive than New York. But I think that if you are a smart traveler, you can get by without spending a large amount of money. You can find good, tasty, filling meals for around 9$, and transportation is pretty cheap. The highest expense is for lodging, which I guess is around 35-45$ a night. But hey, screw the money and come. It’s fun here, really!

Lastly for your most complicated question, how are journalists treated here. In 2005, the Freedom House Institute rated the freedom of journalism in Israel as one of the lowest in the western world. In 2010 Israel received a better score and is currently considered the only country with free press in the Middle East (the situation for Palestinian journalism is different).

I think the report’s own words describe the situation best: “Israel features a lively, pluralistic media environment in which press freedom is generally respected. Nevertheless, due to ongoing conflicts with Palestinian groups and neighboring countries, media outlets are subject to a military censor, and journalists sometimes face travel restrictions”.

The media in Israel has a very big part in everyday life. Most people watch the news and read the papers every day. As a journalist, I can say that journalism is considered a pretty honorable occupation here. I certainly like this occupation, and except for my salary I’m content.

Itay

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