Photo Credit: Sharia Lotan, FB video screengrab
Desolate hall bereft of travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport. April 2020.

Israel issued a stern statement rejecting and condemning the accusations of any religious discrimination regarding the granting of entry permits into Israel, following allegations by Christian groups on the subject.

Wadie Abu Nassar, advisor and media spokesperson of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, claimed Wednesday that Israel was discriminating against Christian pilgrims and banning their entry into the country while admitting Jewish visitors.

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“These unfounded allegations of discriminatory conduct are outrageous, false, and dangerous. We expect religious leaders to not engage in and promote the baseless discourse of hatred and incitement that only serve to add fuel to the fire of antisemitism and can lead to violence and cause harm to innocent people,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

The ministry explained that the renewed outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Israel and the new Omicron variant has “led to a change in the regulations and procedures regarding entry to Israel, just as many other countries have done. These changes, unfortunately, include a ban on tourists entering the country.”

The Exceptions Committee, which discusses special entry requests, has issued numerous permits, to both Jews and Christians. Some of the approved requests were those that came from the church authorities in Israel, including permits for priests to enter the country for the upcoming Christian holidays, the ministry noted.

Israel “prides itself in its ardent devotion to safeguarding and promoting freedom of religion and worship for members of all religions and denominations in the country.”

“Israel has an open-door policy that allows church leaders to discuss with relevant government officials and authorities a variety of issues, including preparations for Christmas,” and is “currently involved in special preparations for Christmas and its surrounding events and ceremonies in order to enable access to holy places for worshippers while ensuring their health and safety,” the statement read.

“We expect religious leaders to renounce hate speech and invite them to continue the regular and fruitful dialogue with the Israeli government,” the Ministry concluded.

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TPS - The Tazpit News Agency provides news from Israel.