Report: The Jewish yarmulke crisis in Saudi Arabia reveals “growing tensions” due to the Gaza war

A newspaper report said:The TimesThe British newspaper said that the incident of preventing a member of the American Committee for Religious Freedom from entering the Diriyah Gate in Saudi Arabia because he was wearing a “Jewish skullcap” “reflects the growing tensions in the Middle East” due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, for about 6 months.

A delegation from the US Committee for Religious Freedom had cut short an official visit to Saudi Arabia, after one of its members was asked to remove the Jewish skullcap he was wearing during their visit to the city of Diriyah.

“No person should be denied access to a heritage site, especially a site intended to demonstrate unity and progress, simply because they are Jewish,” Abraham Cooper, head of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in a statement.

V. Cooper explained in later press statements that he told the official who asked him to take off the hood: “I told him with all respect that I did not take off the hood when I was in the Soviet Union in 1972, so I will definitely not take off the hood here. It’s like asking (a Muslim woman) to She takes off her veil.”

According to the British newspaper, the issue of the Jewish kippa appears to have been “contrived by a mid-level bureaucratic official, amid escalating hostility towards Israel in the Kingdom.”

In this regard, a source familiar with the matter told the newspaper, “It was possible that the kippa issue would have been overlooked if it had occurred before the war in Gaza,” noting that “another rabbi named Jacob Herzog had previously toured Saudi Arabia wearing… “The full Hasidic sect’s uniform, without being subjected to any harassment.”

The Saudi Embassy in Washington confirmed, on Tuesday, that what happened with the rabbi was the result of a “misunderstanding of internal protocols.”

In a statement via: Its official websiteThe Saudi Embassy said: “With regard to the recent incident in which a member of the visiting delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, was prevented from entering the Diriyah Gate, we would like to clarify that this unfortunate incident was the result of a misunderstanding of internal protocols.”

She noted, “The matter was escalated to senior officials, and the ambassador was given the opportunity to speak with the rabbi.”

The embassy added: “The matter has been resolved, but we respect his decision not to continue the tour, and we look forward to welcoming him back to the Kingdom.”

For his part, Cooper considered that the request to remove the kippa he was wearing came from “officials who do not necessarily agree with the general direction of (Saudi Crown Prince) Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

According to the London newspaper report, for several years, the Saudi authorities have been “changing their messages regarding Israel, and intending to send signals about the possibility of further rapprochement.”

The newspaper added: “The Kingdom… was slowly changing the way Israel and the Jewish people were portrayed in the media, while its officials became more critical of the Palestinian leadership.”

Last year, Israeli ministers were allowed to travel to the Kingdom to attend international conferences.

Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel, and did not join the Abraham Accords, under which the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco normalized their relations with Israel.

The administration of US President Joe Biden made unremitting efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia sets several conditions for normalization, including obtaining security guarantees from Washington and assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program. It also affirmed its demand for the establishment of a Palestinian state, something it reaffirmed after the war in the Gaza Strip.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his refusal to establish a Palestinian state, despite American and international calls to implement the two-state solution.

The British newspaper said in its report that, despite optimistic American statements about the possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, “the war in Gaza made the deal unlikely.”

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