Hundreds of Arab Christians from Jordan are risking their careers
and reputation to complete an Easter Sunday pilgrimage to holy sites
Many of the Arab Christians flocking to holy sites in Israel this
Easter Sunday come from neighboring 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
"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.
But under the Anti-Normalization movement, spearheaded by
Islamists and professional associations opposed to Jordan's 1994
peace treaty - or "normalization" with Israel - those found to have
normalized are disbarred from their union and lose their
professional licenses, which are required by Jordanian law.
Families further face the public humiliation of being added to a
once-publicized blacklist of individuals and companies that deal
with the "Zionist entity."
Anti-Normalization activists are determined to crack down on the
practice this holiday to bring to light those who have "normalized
with the enemy," according to Muslim Brotherhood and National Anti-
Normalization Committee leader Hamzah Mansour.
"This is supporting Zionist efforts to rid the holy lands and
Palestine of its inhabitants, and it is forbidden," he said. …