Aug 22, 2010

Jordanian travel agents offer cheap Jerusalem deal.

Ibrahim Zumot, manager of the east Jerusalem based Overseas Travel Bureau,
says that the city has indeed witnessed an increase in Arab tourists from
Jordan and Egypt recently, due to the quiet maintained in the region. "The
region has been quiet for some time and nothing has happened, therefore the
tourists feel that it's OK to travel to Jerusalem," he explains.

However, the Jordanian tour operators who jumped at the opportunity to
corner the market soon discovered there was much more to Jerusalem tourism
than just booking buses and hotels. Influential Jordanian unions and
hard-liners believe that these tours are nothing more than a ploy designed
to circumvent a longstanding, unofficial boycott against Israel.
"Some travel agents exploit the religious feelings of our people, especially
in these days before Ramadan, and offer package deals to Jerusalem. A phone
call to one of these agencies confirmed that they cooperate with Israeli
companies. In order to get to Jerusalem, you need to receive a visa from the
Israeli Embassy," the Jordanian Web site wrote.

Although the Hashemite Kingdom is officially connected to Israel through a
peace agreement signed in 1994, Jordanian unionists vehemently deny any
normalization of relations with the Jewish state and therefore view the
tours to Jerusalem as a form of recognition of Israel.
"Obtaining a visa from the Israeli Embassy is tantamount to a recognition of
the Zionist entity that bestows legality on the occupation of the holy
city," the president of the Trade Unions Council, Ahmad Armouti, said
during the last spate of protests. Last week, demonstrations were held in
front of the Jordanian Tourism Ministry, which allegedly supports the
tourist flow to Israel. The protesters, who belonged to the National
Committee for Resisting Normalization of Ties with Israel, carried signs
that called for a ban on all such trips, as they advocate normalization with
Israel. Some of the signs quoted the recent ruling of Sheikh Yusuf
al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and
spiritual father of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, who issued a fatwa
condemning the calls to visit Al- Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem under

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