On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Christian churches in Israel accused the nation of discriminating against Christian tourists during the normally busy Christmas holiday season with its current travel ban.
It is customary for several Christians from around the world to visit sites like Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem, the biblical town in the occupied West Bank revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, every year, around Christmas. But this year will be different since Israel last month closed its borders to foreign tourists in response to the outbreak of the omicron coronavirus variant.
The only exceptions to Israel’s travel ban are for “Birthright,” a popular program that provides free trips to Israel to young Jews from around the world. Groups from the United States are expected to arrive next week, with participants all fully vaccinated and remaining in small “capsules.”
Claiming that this ban was not fair for Christian pilgrims, Wadie Abunassar, a spokesman and adviser to churches in the Holy Land, said various denominations were upset over the selective treatment and he accused Israel of discriminating against Christian pilgrims. “Racist discrimination should never be accepted in any way!” he wrote on Facebook. “I urge the Israeli authorities to treat all those who want to visit the country equally without any discrimination between religion.”