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Group of Israelis barred from entering Jordan over tefillin in baggage

Seven men, part of organized trip to country, told by guards they could not enter as they could be targeted for religious symbol

The Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal at the Wadi Araba crossing between Israel and Jordan. (CC BY 2.5, Wikipedia, NYC2TLV)
The Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal at the Wadi Araba crossing between Israel and Jordan. (CC BY 2.5, Wikipedia, NYC2TLV)

A group of Israeli tourists was barred from entering Jordan on Tuesday after Jordanian guards at the border crossing found tefillin in their bags, Channel 12 news reported.

The seven men, who were part of a group of some 40 insurance agents who were set to take a two-day group trip in the Hashemite kingdom, decided to turn back and return to Israel over the incident.

Amit, one of the people delayed at the border, described to Channel 12 the tense moments, the unpleasant feeling and what he said was the disrespect shown by the Jordanians to the tefillin.

“We reached the border crossing and everything went relatively smoothly, and then they stopped us during the security check,” he said. “They asked us to open the suitcases, took out the tefillin and set it aside, took our passports and took us to a separate room.”

Amit said that the guards told him that they couldn’t take the tefillin into Jordan because it was a religious sign that should not be brought into the country.

“Their excuse was that it was because of intelligence that we could be targeted for wearing it,” he said.

“I told them that the tefillin is going to stay at the hotel room and that it is important to us due to our beliefs, but they didn’t agree. They were very confused and we did not understand what they wanted at all. They also did not treat the tefillin with respect.”

Amit said that after spending some two hours at the border crossing, he and the others who were delayed decided to not join the rest of the group and to remain in Israel.

“Never in my life has anything like this happened to me anywhere I have traveled around the world,” he added. “It’s bizarre to do something like that to you because of your beliefs. I have been putting on tefillin since my bar mitzvah, for 28 years every morning. If they were doing it to a Christian or a Muslim person, then I’m sure there would have been a whole story and a mess over it.”

The Foreign Ministry’s website reads: “The Jordanian authorities state that for security reasons they ask religious Israelis not to display the religious symbols: tallit, kippah, etc. It has often happened that items such as tallit and tefillin were not allowed in at the border crossing, and the traveler was asked to return to Israel or deposit his religious belongings at the border crossing, until the end of his visit to Jordan.”

The ministry also said in a statement to Channel 12 that it was aware of the incident and in contact with the group.

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