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Jordan

Israeli tourists asked to hand over Jewish paraphernalia

Israeli tourists asked to hand over Jewish paraphernalia
Israel - Jordan border crossing / flickr.com

Aug 13, 2008

Dozens of Israelis who have passed through the Arava border crossing during the last few days were given a choice, either turn over all items that carry Jewish symbols or be denied entry into Jordan.

The reason? According to the Jordanians it is nothing more than a security precaution.

"The Jewish symbols will make it easier on terrorist elements to identify Israelis" a Jordanian official explained.

For the past year the Jordanians have been meticulous when checking Israelis, especially orthodox Jews, who wish to enter Jordan. Last week authorities reiterated their advisory that "Jewish paraphernalia" that could risk the lives of the tourists, must be left at the border checkpoint.

'No anti-Semitic sentiment'
On Tuesday, for example, a group of 30 religious Israelis had to cancel their planned trip to Petra, after Jordanian authorities' confiscated their Jewish paraphernalia.

"The Jordanians confiscated everyone's prayer books and even seized one members' copy of a book by (Shmuel Yosef)Agnon", mentioned Richter, a member of the group.

According to Richter, the Jordanians claimed that this was being done for security reasons. "It sounded a little far-fetched', said Richter, "I hate to think what would happen if the State of Israel would confiscate copies of the Koran from Muslim tourists or copies of the New Testament from Christian tourists; the rest of the world would be upset."

The foreign Ministry has confirmed that the Jordanians had in fact increased security regarding Jewish paraphernalia. "They claim that it has to do with security measures," a source inside the ministry said.

"They believe tourists we can be recognized as Jews would be easier target for terrorists," he said. We told them that it seemed a bit much, and that generally, Jews pray and put on tefillin in private, such as in a hotel room, but their concerns are about Jews praying in public and drawing attention to themselves."

Following the increase in complaints both the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli embassy in Amman plan to appeal to the Jordanian authorities in order to ease the restrictions

"It must be understood that this decision stems from a genuine desire to keep the Israeli tourists safe", said a source in the ministry. "There is no anti-Semitic sentiment (behind the decision), just the desire to protect tourists the best that they can".

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