Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Idobi

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the United States has released an open letter of apology after a Saudi official instructed a Jewish American member of an official delegation to Riyadh to remove his kippah.

Saudi apology after a Jewish American told to remove his kippah while in Riyadh.

“Regarding a recent incident in which a member of a delegation visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — Rabbi Abraham Cooper — was denied entry to Diriyah Gate, we would like to convey the following clarification: This unfortunate incident was the result of a misunderstanding of internal protocols,” the Embassy wrote in its statement.


“The matter was escalated to senior officials, and HRH the Ambassador had the opportunity to speak with the Rabbi. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Kingdom,” the statement added.

The “unfortunate incident” took place when US delegation visiting a United Nations world heritage site in Saudi Arabia abruptly cut short their visit this Monday (March 11) after a Jewish member of the group was instructed by a Saudi official to remove his kippah (yarmulka head covering).

The incident took place as Saudis and other Muslims around the world were preparing to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began Tuesday.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, chairman of the visiting US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told the Saudi official that as an observant Jew, he could not remove his kippah.

In response to Cooper’s refusal to remove the yarmulka, the delegation was escorted off the premises of the Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage Site in Riyadh.

“No one should be denied access to a heritage site, especially one intended to highlight unity and progress, simply for existing as a Jew,” Cooper said in a statement.

“Saudi Arabia is in the midst of encouraging change under its 2030 Vision. However, especially in a time of raging antisemitism, being asked to remove my kippah made it impossible for us from USCIRF to continue our visit,” he said.

“We note, with particular regret, that this happened to a representative of a US government agency promoting religious freedom,” he added.

“USCIRF looks forward to continuing conversations with the Saudi government about how to address the systematic issues that led to this troubling incident.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.