Jerusalem: Muslims holding Israeli passport will no longer be issued Hajj and Umrah visa by Saudi Arabia following the changes in its policy which decided against accepting temporary Jordanian passports issued to them for the pilgrimage to Makkah.
Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have any diplomatic relationship. Hence, Israeli Muslims or Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza or West Bank, were issued temporary passports by Jordan for the pilgrimage. The arrangement worked for the last 40 years.
However, the latest changes in Saudi Arabia's visa rules have made it impossible for more than one million Israeli Muslims to perform Haj and Umrah.
Talking to Israeli daily Haaretz, Chairman of the Israeli Hajj and Umrah Committee, Hajj Salim Shalata, said that he learned from the Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places that the Saudi authorities would no longer honor temporary Jordanian passports. Anyone seeking to enter Saudi Arabia must have a regular passport, a change that effectively blocks Israel's Muslim citizens - which comprise 17 percent of Israel's population.
"We have no explanation for what happened, so we appealed to every possible avenue of help, but to our great regret the pilgrimage that was supposed to take place in December, for which thousands of people have registered, will not be held," Shalata said.
The Hajj and Umrah Committee of Israel has asked the head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in Israel, Mohammed Barakeh, as well as MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List), to put the case to the Jordanian authorities and to try to pressure the Saudis into reversing the ban. Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places said it was addressing the issue with its Saudi counterpart but no solution had yet been found, Haaretz reported.
Coinciding with Eid al Adha, Haj is the annual ritual to commemorate the sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hager and their son Prophet Ismael. The likely date of Wuqoof e Arafat - the key ritual of the Hajj, is August 09 or 10 this year. As the Islamic calendar is based on sighting of moon, the final date will be decided once the new moon of the month of Dhul Hijjah is sighted.
While Hajj - mandatory on every Muslim who is healthy and financially strong to bear the cost of travel and stay in Makkah, is performed only once year in the month of Dhul Hijjah, Umrah is lesser Hajj and can be performed any time during a year.
Haaretz in its report further said that by changing its visa policy, the Saudis must be weighing the option of allowing Muslims and Palestinians holding Israeli passports directly from their parent country. The speculation holds ground as there are reports that relationship of Israel with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have taken a positive note nowadays, Haaretz reported.
The Saudi authorities have so far not responded to these reports.
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