Security fears prompt Jordan ban on religious Jews

Security concerns cited; eight Israelis barred from Aqaba.

If you look like a religious Jew, forget about touring Petra. In fact, if you have a kippa, side-curls or tzitzit dangling outside your pants, forget about going anywhere in Jordan, since the Jordanians - because of security concerns - are barring entry to anyone who looks, well, too Jewish. Army Radio reported Wednesday that eight Israelis who wanted to go scuba diving in Aqaba were turned away at the border because Jordanian customs officials found tefillin and tallitot in their bags. A Jordanian governement spokesman said that the matter is being looked into. "This was not a political decision,it was something that happened at the border" said Nasser Joudeh. "Once all the facts are known, we will be able to comment more." While an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman could not confirm the details of that particular report, he did say that Israel has been "holding a dialogue" with the Jordanians about the overall issue. According to the official, the Jordanians maintain that people who look obviously Jewish or Israeli are targets for terrorists. The official said that although Israel understands the Jordanian security concerns, the symbolism of turning away someone because of a beard, side-curls, kippa or black garb is "problematic." He said there have been reports of haredim who have not been allowed into Jordan. Army Radio reported that some haredim go to Jordan to visit a site believed to be the burial place of the biblical Aaron. Sixty-three people were killed in three suicide bombings in hotels in Amman on November 9, one of them an Israeli Arab. Based on "concrete information" of plans to attack Israeli and tourist targets in the country, the Foreign Ministry in August issued a travel advisory against going to Jordan.That warning is still in effect. Orly Halpern contributed to this report.