Saudi Arabia: Israelis banned, but Jews now allowed to work here
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Saudi Arabia: Israelis banned, but Jews now allowed to work here

Kingdom’s Labor Ministry says religion not taken into consideration when issuing permits. But Israelis are barred from the country, and some Jews report problems gaining visas

The tallest clock tower in the world at the Abraj al-Bait Towers overlooks the Grand Mosque and its expansion in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil, File)
The tallest clock tower in the world at the Abraj al-Bait Towers overlooks the Grand Mosque and its expansion in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil, File)

Jews are allowed to work Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Labor Ministry told the Kingdom’s daily Al-Watan newspaper on Tuesday.

Al-Watan reported that the Saudi Labor Ministry’s website now lists Judaism as one of the 10 religions acceptable for foreign workers to practice. Among the other options were “Communism” and “no religion.”

The paper further cited an unnamed government source who said work permits were issued based on nationality, and not religion, and there was no official ban issuing work visas to Jews, only Israelis.

“We bar entry [into Saudi Arabia] only to those with Israeli citizenship. Other than that, we are open to most nationalities and religions,” he said, adding that the policy was proof of the Kingdom’s openness to other religions, according to a translation of the report by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“For example, if a worker is a citizen of Yemen but practices Judaism, the [Saudi] Embassy [in Yemen] would not object to issuing him a work visa for the kingdom,” the source added.

Saudi Arabia, which has some of the most restrictive travel policies in the world, does not grant visas to Israelis or people with Israeli visa stamps in their passport. And although the government has officially said that it does not discriminate against tourists based on religious affiliation, some would-be visitors in the past have reported having trouble in obtaining a visa after identifying as Jewish.

Saudi Shura Council Foreign Affairs Committee member Sadaqa bin Yahya Fadhel expressed his support for the Labor Ministry’s decision, saying, “We Muslims have no problem with the Jews. Our biggest problem, as an Arab and Islamic nation, is with the Zionist movement, and not with the Jews or Christians,” he said.

According to MEMRI’s report, the committee member went on to explain that the Zionist movement exploits Judaism in order to achieve its goals.

MEMRI noted that there is a divide in the Saudi religious establishment over the differing interpretations of a hadith from the Koran that states, “Remove the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula.”

Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state that still bans the establishment of houses of worship belonging to religions besides Islam.

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