Who would have thought? Israel has become a preferred destination of travel for Muslims from around the world.
The past six years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of tourists arriving in Israel from Islamic and Arab states, even though they have no diplomatic ties with Israel, Ynet reports.
Since 2009, more than 250,000 Muslim and Arab tourists from around the world have visited Israel secretly. While the stated purpose for most of the entries has been to visit Muslim holy sites, many have come for business and pleasure as well.
Tourists from Indonesia have lead the trend with 124,000 entries, Jordan followed with 81,000 visits, 23,483 from Malaysia, 38 from Saudi Arabia, 168 from the United Arab Emirates and 147 from Qatar and Oman.
Tourists from these countries usually ask not to have their passports stamped upon entering or exiting Israel so as not to publicize their visit, which could get them in trouble when they enter Arab countries. Israel reportedly complies.
Sharp Spike in Muslim Tourism during 2013
The year 2013 alone saw the arrival of 29,517 tourists from Indonesia, more than three times the 9,442 tourists who arrived from that country in 2009.
With a total of 23,483 tourists from Malaysia in the past six years, the number has jumped from only 584 in 2009 to 7,859 in 2013.
A similar spike has been seen from Morocco and Egypt – from 658 in 2009 to 2,239 thus far in 2014, for a total of 6,440 Moroccan tourists during that same 6 year period. A total of 13,333 tourists arrived from Egypt, including 4,368 since the beginning of 2014, compared to only 1,018 in 2009.
The number of tourists from Jordan has nearly doubled since 2009 with 81,575 Jordanian tourists in the past six years.
Kuwaiti Tourism Package to Israel
Kuwait announced last month that it would allow its citizens to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of a tour package with the government’s approval. Tourists will fly from Kuwait to Amman, Jordan, and then continue on to Jerusalem by bus. The package includes accommodation in Arab hotels, a visit to pray at the Temple Mount and shopping in Jerusalem and in the PA.
The Kuwaiti foreign minister launched the tourism package to Israel with his own visit to the Temple Mount, which he held in coordination with Israel. However, Kuwaiti officials stressed that their citizens’ visits do not indicate in any way that they are recognizing the State of Israel.
While Israel has chosen not to publish these figures so as not to affect the positive trend, the government is keeping a sharp eye on who is coming and going. Every visa permit for a tourist from these countries is examined by the Shabak (Israel’s Security Agency) before being approved by the Foreign Ministry and the Population and Immigration Authority.
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Author: United with Israel Staff