Hundreds of Arab Christians from Jordan are risking their careers and reputation to complete an Easter Sunday pilgrimage to holy sites in Israel.
Mohammad Abu Ghosh/AP
Jerusalem; and Amman, Jordan
But they do so at a price.
Those who make the trek – and, as part of a broader rise in religious tourism, more are making it every year – risk their professional reputation and their family’s disapproval.
For a country whose 1994 peace treaty with Israel was never accepted at the popular level, receiving an entry stamp, let alone a visa from Israel, is considered “treason” to the Arab cause.
But despite a growing movement to discredit those involved with the “Zionist enemy,” hundreds of Jordanians risk their careers and reputation to complete a pilgrimage to holy sites in Israel’s occupied territories.
“I cannot help it,” says Daoud Yazeed, a Jordanian Christian who disguises his pilgrimages as business trips. “Jerusalem is calling.”
In 2009, 15,000 Jordanians traveled to Israel, the most of any Arab or Muslim country. While a majority of them were visiting Palestinian relatives, a significant number are part of a growing trend of religious tourism.
According to tour operators, an increasing number of Jordanian Christians and Muslims – Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest city – are taking part in all-inclusive week-long trips through Nazareth, Hebron, and Jerusalem, priced at $600.