Most people take adequate precaution to avoid the general vicinity of snakes, and will go through great lengths to be sure they never actually have skin-to-skin contact with one. Yet in a roadside attraction in Talmei Elazar, (Northern) Israel people are actually paying $70 a pop to have snakes plopped on their stomachs, feet, hands – and, yes, even their faces, and necks. They call it a “massage” and they tout the snakes’ therapeutic powers.
I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, or even saw the pictures. Check them out yourself (I didn’t want to put them directly on this page as they may make you squeamish, even a bit queasy – you’ve been warned):
This “spa” idea came from Ada Barak, the owner of a carnivorous plant farm in Talmei Elazar. While showing off her plants to customers, Barak would pass around the snakes that slithered in and out of her plants. Her customers said the snakes’ touch on their skin felt good, like a “cold compress”.
From these suggestions she started her brand of “massage therapy” where she places six snakes on a person’s arms, legs, stomach, neck, and face. The snakes – all non-venomous – at first panic and try to get away. But gradually they get more comfortable and coil around fingers, toes, arms and legs. The bigger King and Corn snakes provide a deeper massage while the smaller snakes provide trembling and fluttering rubs. Clients to the farm say the snakes can help alleviate migraines and relax sore muscles. “People either like it a lot or they hate it.” Barak said in the Time magazine article cited above.
I’ve never tried this type of massage – and I’m pretty sure I never will. If I’m in the area, I think I will head over to Sea of the Galilee or the Mediterranean – both less than an hour away from this snake spa – for a proper massage and relaxation. I mean, whatever happened to the soothing sounds of the sea and the pleasant touch of scented oils? While every culture should be allowed to have its traditions – even its eccentricities – this is just too far out there for me.