Jordanian police threatened a group of Israeli tourists, among them a Rabbi, that they would be jailed if they prayed anywhere in the country. Their tefillins, prayer shawls, kippahs and prayer books were confiscated – and Jordan is a moderate Muslim country.
A group of approximately 20 haredi Jews are being detained at a hotel near Petra, Jordan, after they sought to go to the grave of Aaron.
The tourists were in Jordan to visit the Tomb of Aaron, the biblical high priest and brother of Moses, who tradition holds is buried on Mount Hor, near Petra, at a site known locally as Jabal Haroun.
“It emerged that they were not allowed to show any religious symbols,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel. He said the incident occurred either Sunday or Monday.
Whoever prays will be taken to jail
One of the tourists, Rabbi Menashe Zelicha of Bnei Brak, said the police officers told his group that “in all of Jordan it is forbidden for Jews to pray.”
“We are not allowed to pray in the morning, no tefillin, no prayer shawls, nothing – we cannot pray, even in the hotel, even inside our room,” Zelicha told the Kol Chai radio station. “Policemen came into the hotel and were shouting and went wild, saying that in a minute they would take us out of Jordan if we made even a tiny squeak. They told us, ‘Whoever prays will be taken to jail.’”
“They have brought in a special police force, not regular policemen, and they have the power to arrest anyone on the spot,” the Rabbi said. “Whoever is seen praying will be arrested.”
Rabbi Zelicha added that his group was talking to each other about how to do the morning prayers anyway.
“When we reached the border crossing, everything was fine, all behaved politely, we passed all the controls, and everything went well.
Suddenly, after they realized that we were a group from Jerusalem, we understood from the instructors that the history of the Temple Mount was related to our situation and suddenly they decided that they wanted to re-examine all our bags.”
“After going through an X-ray detector (how ironic considering the pressures Jordan applied against Israel for the removal of the metal detectors at Temple Mount) and everything was fine, we were stopped another time. They started checking the suitcase and checking everything inside again.”
Zelicha said authorities “checked the suitcase and everything. They refused to let us bring in books. They removed the prayer shawls, the tefillin; they removed one person’s tzitzit.
“One guy had on him a driving written test booklet, they took it. They took people’s skullcaps. People were left with only their shirt and trousers.”
Israeli diplomats stationed in Jordan asked the tourists to “lower their profile and to listen to instructions from the police,” Nahshon said.
The Israelis were also advised to leave the country sooner than they had planned, given the tense situation in Israel and the West Bank in the wake of a July 14 shooting attack at the Temple Mount, as well as the stabbing attack on an Israeli security guard and death of two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy compound in Jordan on Sunday.
“A few others and I saw what was happening,” added Rabbi Zelicha, “We managed to hide the tefillin on the side of a suitcase without being noticed. We felt like the people during the Shoah. Thank God, my phylacteries and my shawl of prayer have not been taken away”.
Among all the Nazis collaborators during WW2, Palestinian Arabs are the only one who have not been denazified.