Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jordan: Tourism Ministry Formally Urges Israelis, Jews to Avoid Wearing Religious Apparel, Jewelry

Earlier today (December 12) the Jordanian Tourism Ministry warned Israeli and Jewish visitors not to wear outwardly Jewish apparel and jewelry while visiting the Hashemite Kingdom and to avoid performing Jewish rituals during their stay.

COMMENT: Although such suggestions are not new to Christian and Jews visiting Muslim countries, this is the first time that the Jordanian government has formalized the issue, particularly as it relates to the wearing of the Star of David, kippahs, scarves and performing religious expressions.

The Ministry's memo on the subject, which was also distributed to tour companies in Israel, did not specify what constituted Jewish apparel or symbols.

Even though Jordan is by far one of the most enlightened and liberal Muslim countries in the Middle East, six Israeli tourists were reportedly assaulted earlier this year in southern Jordan when Jews wore the Kippah and the Star of David. Reportedly, the incident occurred in the town of Rabba, which is located some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Amman.

Additionally, on July 18, at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria, a suicide bomber with an IED carried in a bulky backpack was deemed to be responsible for an attack on a bus-load of Israeli tourists that killed five and wounded 33 others. The Israeli government subsequently accused Hezbollah for the terrorist attack.

Having traveled extensively in the Middle East, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, I have learned that as a Catholic, even blessing oneself when an airliner takes off, is usually met with objecting looks.

Also, as an effective risk-reduction strategy, I have always urged Christians and Jews traveling in the Middle East, to avoid wearing of apparel or jewelry that signifies a religion other than Islam. 

Sadly, this is the kind of overly-sensitive world in which we now live.