Israel reverses ban on Indonesian tourists after officials protest

Foreign Ministry hails ‘good news,’ as Jakarta also said to lift restrictions slapped on Israeli visitors over Gaza deaths last month

Indonesian Christian pilgrims sing before a baptismal ceremony in Jordan river at the Yardenit baptismal site in Israel, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
Indonesian Christian pilgrims sing before a baptismal ceremony in Jordan river at the Yardenit baptismal site in Israel, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Israel has reversed its ban on Indonesian tourists entering the country, after Jakarta agreed to lift its own moratorium on issuing visas to groups of Israelis, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Last month, Indonesia said it will no longer issue visas for Israelis in group tours, in protest of the IDF killing more than 110 Palestinians on the Gaza border in weekly riots, protests, and clashes organized by the Hamas terror group. Most of those killed have been identified as members of terror organizations.

Israel reacted in kind, announcing the prohibition against Indonesian tourists.

Officials in Israel’s tourism industry had been protesting Jerusalem’s tit-for-tat ban, saying it endangered an industry that sees some 30,000 Christian Indonesian pilgrims visit the country every year, at an average of a five-night stay.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted Wednesday morning that following “silent” contacts between the countries through international channels, “visa restrictions on Indonesian tourism to Israel were lifted, in parallel to lifting of restrictions by Indonesia on Israeli tourists. Good news.”

Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Israeli ban was originally supposed to go into effect on June 9, but was pushed off to Tuesday of this week, The Marker business daily reported.

Yossi Fatael, the head of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, had urged the decision to be reversed.

Indonesian priests baptize Christian pilgrims in the Jordan river at the Yardenit baptismal site, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Fatael sent an letter in early June to Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin asking them to hold an urgent meeting over the consequences of the move, highlighting the “unbearable financial consequences” for Israeli travel agencies, hotels, bus companies, tour guides, and others.

Sana Srouji, who manages the Eternity Travel company in Jerusalem, was quoted by The Marker as saying the decision would condemn her agency, as well as 10 other agencies, to bankruptcy since 70 percent of their income is from Indonesian tourists.

“They are lovers of Israel who want to visit and also donate a lot of money,” she said, adding the step would also harm tour guides and other tourism workers who have learned the Indonesian language.

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