Saudis Won't Take Israeli Passports for Hajj After All

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Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010.Credit: AP

Rumors that thawing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel would lead to an easing on regulations for Israeli Muslims wishing to make next month's annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca proved unfounded, according to Saudi-based Arab News.

The Saudi government stressed that reports last week that it would allow Arabs holding Israeli passports to enter the kingdom on condition that a consulate abroad had issued the visa were erroneous, Arab News reported Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian government confirmed that it has issued temporary passports to Arab-Israeli citizens so that they may enter Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

A reported 5,000 Arab-Israelis perform the hajj each year. Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel, so Jordan issues the visas to make the journey possible.

We understand the problems Arab-Israelis are going through, therefore we try to facilitate their travel to the Kingdom as much as we can," Marqan Qutaishat, director general of the Jordanian Passport and Civil Status Department told Arab News on Friday. "We issue them a one-month passport upon their arrival in the Kingdom, which they use when applying for a visa at the Saudi embassy for the Hajj.

He explained that pilgrims are required to hand in their temporary passports after completing the pilgrimage.

Israeli Muslims who wanted to travel to Mecca had to go through a third country such as Cyprus until the 1970s, when Saudi Arabia gave them permission to make the hajj via Jordan.

This year, for the first time, Israeli Muslims will be able to fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, via Amman, rather than take a bus. The hajj this year runs October 3-7.

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