From streets to hotels and restaurants to monasteries, Israelis are all over Leh are instead traveling through Ladakh after cancelling their Kashmir Valley plans due to a lockdown.
In markets and public places, one can hear Ladakhi and Hebrew being spoken and shops have tailored their menus to suit Israeli taste buds as a large number of them are currently staying in Leh town.
The nearly month-long lockdown in the Valley has prompted most of the Israeli travelers to cancel their Kashmir itinerary and prolong their stay in Leh, turning the city into a “Little Israel” of sorts.
Stanzin Namzang, manager of the Hotel Green View, said, “We have 13 rooms and barring 4-5 rooms, all have been taken up by Israelis. Same is the situation in many other hotels too. Israelis love Ladakh and the French too.”
In Leh, a walk in the streets is enough to tell that Israelis outnumber all foreign tourists significantly, and several shops even offer kosher food.
Kashmir Valley has been under lockdown for nearly a month, since the Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into UTs J&K and Ladakh.
In Buddhist-dominated Leh district, people are largely happy about getting a UT status, however, sections of people in Muslim-dominated Kargil district of Ladakh have been protesting the decision. Also, all men and women have to mandatorily do service in Israeli armed forces for a couple of years.