Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jordanian border guards bar Israeli tourists for wearing yarmulkes

Israel and Jordan are officially at peace with each other, but some Jordanian border guards are apparently unaware of this. As reported by Tali Farkash of Ynet News, December 10, 2015:

A tour guide and her family who were supposed to enter Jordan on Wednesday for a family vacation were delayed at the border and not allowed to enter the country, because they had yarmulkes in their possession.

"They took the yarmulkes from our heads without any warning or explanation," Tamar Hayardeni told Ynet.

She added that even after pleading and promising to hide the yarmulkes in their bags, the Jordanian inspectors were not satisfied, ordering them to leave them at the border. The inspectors also said that entering Jordanian territory with "Jewish items" is forbidden.

The Foreign Ministry responded that it was clarifying the family's complaint with the Jordanian embassy: "We are with the family, and explaining that there is no justification in banning yarmulkes."

Hayardeni has previously been to Jordan, having organized a tour in cooperation with guides who know the procedures there, and said that this is the first time they have heard about the prohibition on entering Jordan with "Jewish items."

"I was writing to one of the tour guides while the event was ongoing," Hayardeni said. "We were stuck at the border for two hours, until they agreed to give us our passports back.

"The guide told me that he has heard about something like this once before, when some ultra-Orthodox were given a hard time. But that's it. And even they were allowed to enter," she continued.

Hayardeni explained that after crossing over to the Jordanian side of the border terminal and paying the crossing fee, a soldier approached them and with no warning or explanation snatched the yarmulkes from the heads of her husband and sons.

"It was done in a very ugly manner. He didn't explain or say anything, he just took the yarmulkes from their heads and disappeared," she said. "After some time he returned and started to shout at us. He ordered us to go back to Israel in order to 'be rid of the yarmulkes.'"

The family's attempts to change their minds fell on deaf ears. "We told them that we have no problem with keeping the yarmulkes hidden deep inside our luggage. But they didn't agree at all," Hayardeni said.

Hayardeni added that "even the local driver who we'd hired tried to intervene, saying that he would take responsibility and keep the yarmulkes in his taxi and then take them home. Nothing helped. The message was clear: You cannot enter Jordanian territory with a Jewish item."

Another family had a similar experience at the same time. "Another tourist entered the room we were in and was told to go back because he had phylacteries in his bag! The same tour guide said that he didn't know what was going on, because he had personally crossed into Jordan with phylacteries before," Hayardeni said.

In the end, Hayardeni said, they decided not to try and go ahead with their holiday – primarily because of the children. "The children said they were not interested, they felt that they were not wanted in Jordan as Jews, which is in fact what we all felt. That was the key point in this whole story," Hayardeni said.

For now the family has settled for staying in a hotel in Eilat, for an Israeli holiday. According to them, they lost a lot of money after the hotel in Jordan and other services they had paid for in advance refused to refund them their money.

"The message is very clear to us: Maybe they want us as Israelis, but not as Jews," Hayardeni said.

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