The Media Line led over twenty years ago in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Look out for exciting new additions as we enter 2022.

We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.
The Media Line

Non-profit news needs public support.
Please support us with your generous contributions:
Israel’s Coronavirus Entry Ban Exempts ‘Jewish Tourism,’ Angering Disappointed Christmas Pilgrims

Israel’s Coronavirus Entry Ban Exempts ‘Jewish Tourism,’ Angering Disappointed Christmas Pilgrims

Saudi Arabia says foreign Muslims ages 12 and up may enter kingdom for umrah pilgrimage

Israel’s cabinet voted Wednesday to approve keeping the country’s borders closed for another week, until December 29, in order to prevent the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. With this extension, the ban will be in effect for at least one month.

The ban has seriously harmed the travel industry, which had just started to rebound after nearly two years of a global pandemic when the country’s borders were again open to tourists in early November.

Despite the ban, reports have surfaced that exemptions will be available for “Jewish tourism,” including Taglit-Birthright Israel, free 10-day trips designed to connect Jewish young people to Israel, which usually brings hundreds of young people to Israel in December, when college students are on winter break. Birthright participants will be required to quarantine for three days and have two negative COVID-19 tests in order to travel throughout the country. These are the same requirements that Israeli citizens who travel outside of the country must adhere to.

The decision to exempt Jewish tourism from the ban has angered Christian groups and officials that had planned to spend the Christmas holiday in Israel, Haaretz reported. Christian leaders have protested the “discrimination” at the height of the “pilgrimage season,” Haaretz reported.

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed official with the Catholic Church who said that the church, along with other denominations, has appealed to Israel’s Tourism Ministry to allow Christian pilgrims to enter and visit holy sites in the country for Christmas.

Wadie Abunassar, adviser and media spokesperson of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, and honorary consul of Spain in Haifa, in response to the exception for Birthright trips, said in a tweet: “Discrimination is not accepted at all. No justification to allow non-Israeli Jews in the country while banning others! The Israeli government are requested to have equal entry criteria on the basis of health realities regardless to religions, ethnicities!”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that exemptions have been granted that are unrelated to religion and ethnicity and that permits have been issued to allow some priests in to the country for Christmas, The Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which detected its first case of the omicron variant on December 1, on Wednesday announced that it would allow foreign pilgrims age 12 years and older to enter the kingdom and perform the Islamic umrah pilgrimage to Mecca; an earlier decision would have allowed only those ages 18 to 50 to enter the country for the pilgrimage. Unlike the hajj, which can only be undertaken during the last month of the Islamic calendar, the umrah can be performed at any time. The pilgrims will be required to register their proof of vaccination status on the appropriate app and then will receive their umrah visa.

An umrah visa is free and is only valid for two weeks. Visa applicants who have non-Muslim names must submit certificates from a mosque or an Islamic center stating that they are Muslim. Women and children must be accompanied by a husband, father, or another male relative.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 4 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

 

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan157,7257,332145,5074,886
Algeria213,5336,165146,89860,470
Bahrain278,2021,394276,434374
Cyprus142,878614124,37017,894
Djibouti13,52618913,30433
Egypt371,69821,203309,35441,141
Iran6,165,454130,9465,990,89843,610
Iraq2,089,66924,0302,058,3067,333
Israel1,352,4038,2271,337,8346,342
Jordan1,024,03212,078946,91265,042
Kuwait413,8472,466410,971410
Lebanon694,2568,886644,08041,290
Libya380,4645,583367,9366,945
Mauritania39,92485238,571501
Morocco951,98414,798935,8801,306
Oman304,7834,113300,122548
Pakistan1,290,21428,8491,251,9149,451
Palestinian Territories435,4734,590426,8903,993
Qatar246,024614242,9802,430
Saudi Arabia550,5428,858539,7931,891
Somalia23,0741,33312,8178,924
Sudan45,1123,25236,0095,851
Syria49,4932,82830,77015,895
Tunisia720,14325,445693,2971,401
Turkey9,100,32479,6968,687,265333,363
United Arab Emirates743,3522,151738,2602,941
Yemen10,0811,9736,9551,153
Total27,808,210408,46526,714,327685,418

 

Steven Ganot contributed to this report.

Did you know we’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary as the 1st American News Agency exclusively covering the Middle East?

  • The Middle East landscape is changing rapidly.
  • The roads in the region open to new possibilities.
  • The Media Line continues to pave the way to a far greater understanding of the region’s land, people, policies and governments through our trusted, fact-based news.

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

Please make your gift today.
Thank you!

We paved the way to be the Trusted Mid East News you can rely on!

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.