Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that citizens of the Jewish State will now be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for religious visits or business purposes.
According to a report by The Associated Press, Israeli Muslims are to be allowed to travel to the Sunni kingdom on religious pilgrimages and will no longer require special permission to do so, as they have up to this point.
For the first time ever, Israeli Jews will also be permitted to travel to Saudi Arabia in order to conduct business, but will require an official invitation to enter the kingdom, according to an announcement by the Interior Ministry. This decision was coordinated with security officials and other “relevant” bodies – including the Foreign Ministry – the announcement said.
In the past, Israelis have traveled to the kingdom on business trips, but have always used their foreign passports. Those who traveled there for any other reason were required to seek special authorization prior to the trip. The same was true for Israeli Muslims who traveled to Mecca for the “Haj” pilgrimage, which each Muslim is required to complete at least once in his or her lifetime.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. Two of Islam’s holiest sites are located in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina. The Kaaba in Mecca is considered Islam’s holiest site, followed by the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
Despite the fact that Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal diplomatic ties, the two nations have maintained back channel communications on common regional issues, such as the threat from Iran. In addition, there is rising interest in the State of Israel among its increasingly modern Saudi young adult society, which sees an advantage in exchanging hi-tech, medical technology, cyber security and other advances with the Jewish State.