Jewish kippah ends US delegation's visit to Saudi Arabia

Jewish kippah ends US delegation's visit to Saudi Arabia

Shafaq News/ The Saudi embassy in Washington confirmed on Wednesday, in a statement, that a "misunderstanding of internal protocols" resulted in a US delegation on religious freedom being denied entry to the Diriyah gate in Saudi Arabia for wearing a Jewish head covering, or kippah (yarmulke).

The embassy clarified, "Regarding a recent incident in which a member of a delegation visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - Rabbi Abraham Cooper - was denied entry to Diriyah Gate, we would like to convey the following clarification: This unfortunate incident was the result of a misunderstanding of internal protocols."

The embassy added, " The matter was resolved but we respect his decision to not continue the tour. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Kingdom."

According to AFP, A US delegation on religious freedom said on Monday it cut short its visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members was asked to his kippah.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said its delegation was near Riyadh visiting Diriyah, a historic town and Unesco world heritage site, when the commission's chair, the Orthodox rabbi Abraham Cooper, "refused their requests that he remove his religious head covering".

Cooper said in a statement, "No one should be denied access to a heritage site, especially one intended to highlight unity and progress, simply for existing as a Jew."

The USCIRF said Cooper and its vice-chair, the Rev Frederick Davie, were invited to tour the site last Tuesday as part of their official visit when, after several delays to the tour, officials requested that Cooper remove his kippah "while at the site and any time he was to be in public, even though the Saudi ministry of foreign affairs had approved the site visit".

Saudi Arabia "is in the midst of encouraging change under its 2030 vision", Cooper noted. "However, especially in a time of raging antisemitism, being asked to remove my kippah made it impossible for us from USCIRF to continue our visit."

The USCIRF stated it was particularly regrettable it happened to the representative of "an American government agency that promotes religious freedom".

The incident comes against a backdrop of tensions between Saudi Arabia and US ally Israel over the war in Gaza and US efforts to promote normalization of ties between the two sides once the conflict is over.

For months, the process of normalizing ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel was seen as offering political and economic advantages and potentially fostering more stability in the region.

However, negotiations have stalled after Israel's war in the Gaza Strip has led to approximately 32,000 deaths, mostly children and women (about 21,000,) according to Al-Jazeera tally.

The strip also entered a famine, with Israel closing all border crossings and preventing humanitarian aid. So far, 25 Palestinian children have died from hunger.

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