Why are Jews, But Not Christians Being Allowed Into Israel Over Christmas?

Israel decries dangerous and false claims with antisemitic undertones after Church criticizes COVID travel exceptions

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: CHRISTIANS
The tourism industry and local shops have suffered a huge blow due to the lack of Christian tourists over the Christmas season. 
The tourism industry and local shops have suffered a huge blow due to the lack of Christian tourists over the Christmas season.  Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

Israel’s borders remain closed to tourists amid ongoing concern over the Omicron variant of COVID-19. But Israeli media reported this week that the government had made an exception for “Birthright” groups.

The Birthright program is aimed at encouraging young Diaspora Jews to make Aliyah, immigrate to Israel.

Christian officials in Israel quickly cried foul.

The ongoing Corona-related travel restrictions (the government just extended the ban by another week) are having a huge negative financial impact as the Christmas season comes and goes without Christian tourists able to visit the place where it all happened.

Many wondered why if the government could make exceptions for Jewish tour groups, it couldn’t do the same for Christians. Some took their criticism a step too far.

“Racist discrimination should never be accepted in any way!” wrote Wadie Abunassar, a spokesman for the traditional churches in the Holy Land, in an angry Facebook post.

“I urge the Israeli authorities to treat all those who want to visit the country equally without any discrimination between religion,” he added.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs shot back, suggesting that Abunassar was flirting with incitement.

“These unfounded allegations of discriminatory conduct are outrageous, false and dangerous,” read a ministry statement issued following the priest’s Facebook post. “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.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that it had in fact granted exceptions for some Christians in response to requests from churches that Abunassar himself represents.

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