Anti-Semitism Greets Jewish Backpackers in Georgia

One of the many small grocery stores in Kazbegi, Georgia (illustrative)

Georgia, a small European country on the border with Russia was once part of the Soviet Union. Prior to its annexation by the USSR, it was known as a place where many Jews found escape from persecution across Europe and neighboring Slavic countries.

In recent years, it has become a popular attraction among Israeli tourists, particularly with Israeli college students who are drawn in by the breathtaking mountains, lakes and glaciers on their inter-semester breaks.

One of the main reasons for Georgia’s popularity among Israeli students is the well-known Georgian hospitality and their respect towards Jews.

Last month, on a backpacking trip a group of Jewish Israeli students were appalled to come across an anti-Semitic incident that left them speechless.

The author met these fellow students on a hike, who quickly related their shocking encounter.

Ziv Treiger, 25 reported that on one day prior to a hike, he and fellow backpackers, Orr Yagev, 25 and Adar Bar-David, 32 entered a local grocery store, in search for some snacks.

“From the first second we entered the store the clerk stared at us as if we were suspicious. After one minute of browsing the store, she asked us ‘why are you are taking so much time to buy [something] and leave [the store]?’ she didn’t let us out of her sight not even for one second and acted as if she was afraid we would steal something,” Treiger said.

Treiger, who speaks fluent Russian asked the sales clerk if any of the traditional Georgian bread, puri was in stock. The students continued to linger in the store for several minutes, debating what to buy. A man who entered the store at about roughly the same time began to raise his voice in anger. Treiger overheard the man yell in Russian several vulgarities.

As the students approached the counter and tried to make a hasty purchase and leave, Treiger began to count his change quickly. In an attempt to calm the man’s aggressive behavior, the students stepped out of the line, so as to not hold up the other customers. The man continued to yell obscenities. When Treiger finished counting the proper change, the man asked him if he had gotten it right. “Yes,” Treiger replied and overheard the man continue to curse and yell to “get out of here” and “f*ck you” and “because of this everyone hates you people.”

The entire time the sales woman silently nodded in support of the man’s statements, calmly agreeing with his anti-Semitic rant.
Treiger and fellow students were shocked at the encounter.

Later Yagev commented, “The way the man shouted angrily convinced us that it had nothing to do with the many backpackers in the area and solely with the fact that we were Jews.” Bar-David added “it’s strange to see anti-Semitism here…even in Georgia.”

In photo: One of the many small grocery stores in Kazbegi, Georgia (illustrative); courtesy of Yafit Ovadia

By: Yafit Ovadia

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Author: gurarieh.noga