Israeli Journalist Sneaks into Makkah Triggering Online Backlash

A journalist from Israel violated a comprehensive ban on non-Muslims visiting Makkah, Saudi Arabia’s holiest place for Muslims, sparking an online outcry and perhaps straining developing ties between Tel Aviv and Gulf countries.

In a 10-minute story that was shown on Israel’s Channel 13 News on Monday, journalist Gil Tamary drove past the Grand Mosque, the most sacred site in Islam, and hiked the Mount of Mercy in a 10-minute story.

Tamary, who was speaking to the camera in Hebrew and occasionally switching to English to avoid being recognized as an Israeli, was accompanied by a local guide whose face was hidden to prevent recognition.

The story was hailed as a scoop, and the reporter was the first Jewish Israeli to cover the yearly Hajj journey.

Strong internet criticism followed the broadcast of the program, with the hashtag “A Jew in Mecca’s Grand Mosque” trending on Twitter.

One of the critics was Mohammed Saud, a pro-Israel activist from Saudi Arabia. He said, “My dear friends in Israel, a journalist of yours visited the city of Makkah, holy to Islam, and filmed there dishonestly.”

“You and Channel 13 should be ashamed of harming the Islamic faith in that way.” You did a very bad thing.

Esawi Freij, the Muslim minister for regional cooperation in Israel, criticized Tamary’s assessment as “stupid and damaging” to relations between Israel and the Gulf.

He said, “Broadcasting this report completely for ratings was rash and destructive.”

Listen to this audio tap in which he criticise and term the journalist as stupid.


After receiving criticism online, Tamary—who was in Jeddah on Friday covering US President Joe Biden’s visit—apologized and said he didn’t want to upset Muslims.

He immediately apologized on Twitter in English if the video offended anyone.

The goal of the entire endeavor, he continued, “was to promote greater religious inclusion and tolerance by highlighting the significance of Makkah and the beauty of the faith.”

According to the writer, “investigation is at the heart and core of journalism,” and his work had been inspired by a desire to let people “experience, for the first time, a site that is so essential to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to human history.”

The plain of Arafat, which is recognised as the site of the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, 14 centuries ago, lies under the watch of the Mount of Mercy.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem are the next most revered Muslim sites worldwide after Mecca.

Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca; only Muslims are. Deportation or a fine are possible penalties for breaking this rule.

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