The Beautiful Israelis: Volunteer Tourism As an Ethical Consumption in the Israeli Context

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Netta KAHANA, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Volunteer tourism is part of the wider trend of ethical consumption, as it allows untrained tourists to assist disadvantaged communities around the world, and thus to express moral ideas via consumption. Although ethical consumption is a global phenomenon which is used by different social actors in varying social fields, volunteer tourism research focuses on European and North-American organizations and volunteers. This research examines moral conceptions in volunteer tourism in a non-European and non-North-American framework – the Israeli context. Since 2007, a number of volunteer organizations offer special volunteer programs for Israelis around the world. The research examines how volunteer tourism as a form of ethical consumption is organized beyond European and North-American society, and how the moral ideas which are embedded in this global phenomenon are integrated into the Israeli context.

An integrative methodological strategy of content analysis of the websites of all active organizations in the field, and in-depth interviews with volunteers is used. Results indicate that both the organizations and the volunteers ascribe local meaning to the global phenomenon of volunteer tourism. The organizations attribute both national (Israeli) and religious (Jewish) meaning to volunteering, and by doing so they showcase the moral aspects in volunteer tourism as an Israeli and Jewish matters. On the other hand, volunteers perceive volunteering as an expression of individual morality. Practicing ethical travel allows them to display global values and habitus, and to distinguish themselves from other Israeli travelers. The study offers a powerful example of the ways in which volunteer tourism as ethical consumption is organized differently in a local context, due to the varying local meanings ascribed to the phenomenon.