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Foreign Ministry denies religious bias in granting entry exemptions

An arriving traveler walks to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
An arriving traveler walks to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport on November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry denies any accusations of religious discrimination in granting exemptions for foreigners to enter the State of Israel during the COVID ban on entry.

Yesterday a spokesman for Christian churches in the Holy Land accused Israel of discriminating against Christian tourists during the normally busy Christmas holiday season.

“These unfounded allegations of discriminatory conduct are outrageous, false and dangerous,” the ministry said in a statement. “We expect religious leaders to not engage in and promote baseless discourse of hatred and incitement that only serve to add fuel to the fire of antisemitism and can lead to violence and cause harm to innocent people.”

A ban on foreign entry was reinstated in Israel at the end of November due to fears of the Omicron variant, and it has been extended until at least December 29. A recent report indicated that an exemption was made for “Jewish tourism” including Birthright groups but not for Christian groups looking to visit for Christmas.

But the ministry denied the report, saying the exemptions were being granted without any connection to religion.

“The Committee examines each request without bias or discrimination toward any race or religion,” it said. “In recent days, the Exceptions Committee has issued numerous permits, to both Jews and Christians. Some of the approved requests were those that came from the church authorities in Israel, including permits for priests to enter the country for the upcoming Christian holidays.”

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