Ultra-Orthodox travel addict reveals visits to Iran, Iraq, other enemy states

Israeli Avi Gold claims to have been to 129 countries, including some with no diplomatic ties to Israel; says most people he meets are intrigued by his Jewishness

Israeli ultra-Orthodox traveler Avi Gold in Tahrir Square in Baghdad (Screenshot/Instagram; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Israeli ultra-Orthodox traveler Avi Gold in Tahrir Square in Baghdad (Screenshot/Instagram; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An Israeli ultra-Orthodox traveler who has visited over 100 countries around the world, while advocating for Israel along the way, says he has now crossed Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan off his bucket list of destinations.

Avi Gold, 31, a self-confessed travel addict, has gained attention with his exploits, including posting a video from Baghdad’s landmark Tahrir Square and chatting with locals in Sudan.

In an interview with Channel 12 aired Saturday, he said he has been to Iraq multiple times and made a trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Tahrir Square visit, uploaded to his TikTok video-sharing account, featured Gold speaking in Hebrew as he offered followers footage of the scene. He also took photographs with a Shiite imam. The clip drew attention from the media and then from pro-Iranian Shiite militias who demanded his immediate arrest, though Gold was not apprehended.

“I travel to every country in the world without exception,” he said.

His Instagram and TikTok accounts are both closed to the public and only accessible to approved followers.

Gold denied that he makes his journeys as a provocation or for fame, saying that it is purely a thirst for travel that compels him. In all, he has been to 129 countries.

The lure of countries that don’t have ties with Israel, he said, comes because “enemy countries are forbidden, and that turns me on even more.”

Gold said he is not the only Israeli who has managed to enter such locations and he has several friends who have made similar trips. The method, he explained, is to sneak into the countries through poorly guarded border posts, sometimes at night “when the soldiers are not alert.”

The same method is used to get back out again.

“I only got to Afghanistan and Iran for a few hours in each place,” he said.

He first visited Iraq six years ago and since then has been back several times.

When abroad he sometimes wears a cap, but also — including in Muslim countries — has walked around wearing a kippa and with his traditional long sidelocks on show.

He said his ultra-Orthodox appearance has worked to his benefit.

“People are curious about what these curls are, and that opens everything up for me,” he said.

Gold speaks fluent English, the network reported, but no Arabic, relying instead on making a personal connection with those he meets.

“There is one language in the world that everyone speaks without exception — the language of the heart,” he said.

Other countries under his belt are Indonesia — where he discussed Israel with locals during an anti-Israeli protest — and Sudan.

Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud speaks to Israeli TV on September 28, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In 2019 he visited Saudi Arabia after the country first opened up its borders to tourists, and met with pro-Israel blogger Muhammad Saud.

Though Gold did not give details of the trip to Channel 12, in 2022 he told the Ynet outlet that he had entered the kingdom with a foreign passport, without providing further details.

He also described a close encounter at a cafe in Cairo where he got to talking with five locals and, despite the open hostility they showed to Israel, eventually admitted he was an Israeli Jew.

The men threatened to kill him but he said he managed to talk his way out of the situation, proposing to them that they talk instead of resorting to violence.

Over the years, Gold said, he gained friends in Muslim countries across the world, though their tone changed after October 7 when Palestinian terror group Hamas led a massive attack on Israel, sparking a war that has continued since.

At first, Muslim acquaintances showed sympathy but that quickly changed to animosity when Israel started its offensive in Gaza in response to the Hamas assault that killed 1,200 people.

Gold grew up in an ultra-Orthodox home in Beit Shemesh and has eight brothers. He has resisted family urgings to marry and spend his time studying Torah.

The passion for travel started at the age of 18 when he joined four friends on a trip to Europe. He told his family it was a pilgrimage to visit the graves of venerated rabbis “but it wasn’t just that.”

The trip passed off without any setbacks. Next came a trip to Greece and more travel followed to other locations “until it became an addiction.”

He paid for his wanderings by working in customer service for a cellular company. At age 21 he left work and focused on traveling full time.

He now funds his lifestyle by organizing trips that others join him on, making enough to cover his costs.

His dream is to visit every country in the world by the time he is 40, he said though he admitted “it is not realistic.”

Aware that he is getting older, he said he would now rather set up a home and family than reach his goal. “But I kind of resigned myself to the fact that God told me: ‘You will be a drifter, this is your fate.'”

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