Jordan tells Israeli tourists not to wear kippas

The Kingdom's Tourism Minister advises visiting Israelis in a letter to hide signs of Judaism while in the country.

December 12, 2012 23:53
1 minute read.
Sign for newly opened Jordan border in 1994

Sign for newly opened Jordan border in 1994 370 (R). (photo credit: Jim Hollander / Reuters)


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Jordanian tour guides hosting Israeli tourists should advise them not to wear kippas or other clothing that will signal they are Jewish, or take part in Jewish religious rites publicly while in the country, according to a letter sent by the Jordanian Tourism Ministry and Antiquities to tour guides in the country recently.

First reported on in the Jordanian paper Al-Arab al-Youm, the letter reportedly was the result of complaints made to the ministry about the behavior of Israeli tourists at archeological sites and elsewhere in Jordan. The letter was sent out to Jordanian tour guides who host Israelis, as many tour guides in the country, which is more than 70 percent Palestinian, refuse to do business with Israeli tourists.

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Though the letter was a news item on Israeli websites on Wednesday, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, these complaints have been around for many years.

“For years there were some Israelis who would go to different holy sites of one sort or another and put on tefillin and start praying and you can understand for someone who has never seen a Jew before or this ritual this could be shocking, it could cause a disturbance and people could act badly.”

Palmor said they know of a number of incidents in which disturbances and violence broke out after Israeli Jews who had traveled to Jordan began laying on tefillin and praying in public places. He said eventually the Jordanian authorities adopted a procedure of asking incoming Israeli tourists if they are carrying tefillin, and holding them for them at the border crossing until they leave the country.

“They want Israelis to keep coming to their country and enjoying themselves, without any harm coming to them.”

He added that he doesn’t see it as representing any sort of discrimination towards Jews or infringement on freedom of religion.

A similar assessment was given by Yossi Fischer, deputy chairman of the Incoming Tourism Unit of the Travel Agents Association, who said that he’d heard about the letter, which he said he sees as solely an effort to ensure the safety of Israeli visitors to Jordan.

“The Jordanians are great hosts and protecting guests is part of their culture as Beduin. That said, Jordanian security can’t be in all places at all times to protect people.”

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