Photo Credit: Mendy Hechtman / Flash90
The Yitzhak Rabin border terminal near Eilat, July 20, 2012.

Seven Israeli insurance agents were detained on Tuesday morning at the Yitzhak Rabin border terminal, at Israel’s southern border with Jordan, because they were carrying tefillin in their personal luggage. After examining their belongings, Jordanian officials ordered the seven, who were part of a group of about 40 agents, not to bring the tefillin into the country, and the Israeli passengers decided to cancel their visit.

The Israeli foreign ministry’s website warns that “the Jordanian authorities state that for security reasons they are asking religious Israelis not to emphasize religious symbols such as tallit, kippah, etc,” noting that “more than once, it was not possible to bring in items such as tallit and tefillin through the border crossing, and the visitor was asked to return to Israel or deposit his religious objects at the border crossing until the end of his visit to Jordan.”

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Prof. Mordechai Keidar told JewishPress.com that the Jordanians have been sensitive on this matter ever since a group of Jews had ascended the Hor Ha’har, Aharon’s gravesite (the brother of Moses), and began holding memorial ceremonies there. “The Jordanians fear that the Jews will demand sovereignty over the place on the grounds that it is sacred to Judaism,” Prof. Keidar said.

Amit, one of the agents detained at the border, told News 12: “We went out there with a group of 40 agents on a three-day trip to Jordan, Tuesday to Thursday. We had already organized the schedule and everything. We reached a border crossing and everything went relatively smoothly, but then, by the x-rays, they came and detained us. They asked us to open the suitcases, took out the tefillin and set them aside. They were just looking for the tefillin and put them aside, they were looking only for the tefillin.”

“They took the tefillin and our passports and put us in a room,” Amit continued. “There I saw some other friends who had passed ahead of me in the inspection and they said the officers were not willing to let us bring the tefillin in because they are religious articles that should not be brought into Jordan. Their excuse was that they had intelligence information that we could be harmed, so they would keep the tefillin and give them back when we return to Israel. We explained that we would put the tefillin only in closed rooms, and that it was important to us for religious purposes, but they just did not agree. They were very confused and we didn’t understand at all what they wanted. They also didn’t treat the tefillin respectfully.”

“We were stuck there for two hours and didn’t know what to do. In the end, we made a decision that the rest of the group, without tefillin, would enter without us. They returned the tefillin to us and did not return our passports until they escorted us out of the border crossing. It was a really unpleasant feeling. It was really unpleasant. Now we are seven friends with the tefillin, in Eilat, we will stay here and won’t go there,” he said.

“Never in my life has anything like this happened to me anywhere I have been in the world,” he added. “It’s delusional to come and do something like that to you about your religion, something you believe in. I’ve been putting on tefillin since my bar mitzvah, for 28 years, every morning. If they had done something like this to a Christian or a Muslim, then I’m sure there would have been a whole cry and a mess over it.”

The foreign ministry told News 12 they were aware of Tuesday’s incident and had been in contact with group members.

As long as that’s taken care of…

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.