An Israeli journalist violated the ban on the entry of non-Muslims in Makkah, Islam’s holiest site, causing an uproar on social media.
Israel’s Hebrew channel “13 News” aired a 10-minute report on Monday, in which journalist Gil Tamary managed to climb Mount Arafat while driving near Masjid al-Haram.
The Holy Kaaba is located in Masjid al-Haram, which is the house of Allah.
Tamary was accompanied by a local guide whose face was obscured to avoid identification.
Tamary kept his voice low as he spoke to the camera in Hebrew, sometimes using English to protect himself from revealing his Israeli identity.
The journalist is the first Jewish Israeli reporter to report on the annual Muslim Hajj.
As soon as the report aired, the footage received a strong online backlash, with the Twitter hashtag “A Jew in Makkah’s Grand Mosque” trending.
Among the critics was Mohammad Saud, a pro-Israel Saudi activist.
“My dear friends in Israel, one of your Israeli journalists entered Makkah, the holy city of Islam, and shamelessly recorded a film there,” he said.
“Channel 13 people, you should be ashamed of yourself for offending the religion of Islam in this way,” he added.
Israel’s Muslim minister for regional cooperation, Esavi Faraj, condemned Tamary’s report as “stupid and damaging” to Israel-Gulf relations.
“It was irresponsible and harmful to broadcast this report just for the sake of ratings,” he said.
Tamary, who is Jeddah on Friday to cover US President Joe Biden’s visit, apologized after the online backlash, saying he had not intended to offend Muslims.
“If anyone was offended by this video, I sincerely apologize,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The purpose of the entire endeavor was to showcase the importance of Makkah and the beauty of the religion, and in doing so, promote more religious tolerance and integration,” he added.
Mount Arafat overlooks the Maidan-e-Arafat, where the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) delivered his last sermon 14 centuries ago.
Makkah is the holiest place of worship for Muslims in the world, followed by the Prophet’s (pbuh) Mosque in Madina and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Only Muslims are allowed to enter Makkah while non-Muslims are prohibited from entering. Violation of this rule may result in fines or deportation.
The government-controlled Saudi media did not cover the story. It was unclear whether the authorities approved the journalist’s trip to Makkah or not.
There is speculation that the Israeli journalist’s move might strain the growing relations between Tel Aviv and the Gulf States.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations and the Kingdom does not recognize Israel as a state.
However, behind the scenes, the two sides have been working together on security issues for some time, with shared concerns over the growing influence of their common enemy Iran in the region.