Go for the good deal -- and get a dose of spirituality

Jan 19, 2010

New Zealand missionaries want to host the "Chosen People" for the spiritual experience; Israeli backpackers use their services for the cheap deal. "Regardless of conflicting expectations, both sides come out ahead; the Israelis even come out with unexpected spiritual gains," says Prof. Yoel Mansfeld of the University of Haifa who studied the phenomenon.

Israeli backpackers find themselves hosted by Christian missionaries in New Zealand because of the good lodging deals that they offer; but during their stay, these Israelis also get unique spiritual experiences. This has been illustrated in a new study carried out at the University of Haifa's Center for Tourism, Pilgrimage and Recreation. "Even though the financial factor is the Israeli backpacker's main consideration, the spiritual hospitality that they encounter makes the New Zealand experience exceptional," says Prof. Yoel Mansfeld, Director of the Center for Tourism, Pilgrimage and Recreation Research who carried out the study.

Messianic Christians in New Zealand run an organization called HIT (Hosting Israeli Travelers), which organizes home hospitality for Israeli backpackers. These people open their homes to host some 2,000 Israeli backpackers each year for a token fee and sometimes free of charge. This is in accordance with their faith's attributing an elevated status to the Jewish people, and hence an unmediated meeting with a member of the "Chosen People" is considered a religio-spiritual edict. This study, which Prof. Mansfeld carried out with Prof. Alison McIntosh of the University of Waikato in New Zealand, performed in-depth interviews on this unique hospitality arrangement with New Zealand hosts and with Israeli backpackers, in order to examine their respective expectations and actual experiences.

The results show that each side has completely different expectations from the hospitality. The hosts are mainly interested, of course, in experiencing a religio-spiritual encounter simply by means of extending assistance to the Israelis. As one of the hosts said: "The most important benefit is being able to tell my Israeli guest about my religion, about Jesus and about my love for Israel." According to Prof. Mansfeld, the hosts expressed a surprising expectation of benefiting from the arrangement by gaining knowledge about Israeli culture - but showed no real interest in explaining New Zealand culture to the Israelis in return. The Israeli tourists' main expectation is simply minimizing boarding costs, and they have no interest in gleaning any cultural benefits besides clean sheets, hot water and cordial hospitality.

The second stage of the study examined whether these expectations are realized. It turns out that the hosts achieve all their goals and feel blessed for being able to host and assist the Israeli backpacker. The backpackers' expectations on the other hand, are far from met - a conclusion that would probably not come as a surprise to the regular Israeli. Not only do they find out that some of the complimentary accommodations are very basic, but some also find out that the missionary preaching can be quite tiring.

Yet despite the occasional lack of satisfaction and unmet expectations, it seems that the Israeli backpackers still emerge spiritually uplifted from the unique connection that they make with their hosts, which is deepened as they become acquainted with more members of HIT over the course of their travels around New Zealand. This spiritual gain is expressed in a sense of nationalistic pride in their Israeli identity.

Asked what they expect from the HIT hosting network in the future, the Israeli respondents stated that those guest-houses where standards were bleak, ought to upgrade their facilities and suggested that the hosts moderate their missionary zeal.

Prof. Mansfeld summarizes the study: "It appears that despite the unique spiritual connection that is created, the Israeli backpackers are more interested in the financial aspects of the hospitality arrangements and in cutting the costs of their trip by using especially cheap accommodation options."

Explore further: Change 'authoritarian' football culture to produce future stars, says research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Israeli intelligence issues Facebook warning

May 18, 2009

(AP) -- Israel's internal intelligence service urged the public Monday to exercise caution when using Facebook, saying Arabs are trying to recruit spies on the popular social networking site.

Israeli sperm bank posts diminishing returns

May 11, 2009

Wall Street giants are not the only banks hit by diminishing assets. New research for an Israeli sperm bank shows that depositors are 40 per cent less fertile than a decade ago, the Haaretz daily reported.

Israeli, U.S. venture firms open joint lab

Mar 02, 2006

An Israeli venture-capital firm and a U.S. venture-capital company announced Wednesday they would join forces to invest millions in 10 new tech startups.

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

18 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

20 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 19, 2010
Unique spiritual connection or bilateral ego-enhancement? Just wondrin'.

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.