JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
Israel is facilitating pilgrimages to Mecca, known as the Haj, making it possible for its Moslem citizens to fulfill the Koranic requirement any time during the year.
Moslems are enjoined by their faith to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia at least once during their lifetime. From now on the journey by Israeli Moslems will not be limited to the annual mass pilgrimage. They can go whenever they please on what Islamic tradition calls the “Umra” or “little Haj.”
It is the only occasion when Israeli citizens are permitted to visit any Arab country, apart from Egypt. Their trip is made possible with the covert cooperation of the Jordanian and Saudi authorities. The pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia via Jordan, carrying a Jordanian laisser passer.
About 2,700 Israeli Moslems made the annual Haj last year. For security reasons, Israel limits exit permits to persons aged 35 or older. The Umra will be limited to persons of 40 or older.