Fifty Jewish business leaders closely affiliated with Israel visited Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina last month at the invitation of the Saudi authorities, it has been claimed.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Avi Jorish, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the visit was meant to promote “mutual understanding, respect and tolerance.”
Non-Muslims are banned from visiting Makkah and Medina due to the Quranic Verse in Surah Al Tawbah:
“O you who believe! Verily, the Mushrikin are impure. So let them not come near Al-Masjid Al-Haram after this year; and if you fear poverty, Allah will enrich you if He wills, out of His bounty.”
The majority of scholars have also interpreted the sahih hadith: “Two religions cannot coexist in the Arabian Peninsula” to include Medina.
There are also a number of further ahadith which support the prohibition of non-Muslims entering the holy cities, although there is some difference of opinion about their interpretation.
Yet Jorish wrote: “For perhaps 1,300 hundred years, only Muslims have been allowed to visit Islam’s second holiest city. But that appears to be changing, part of a larger transformation in Saudi society.
“On the road to Medina, Saudi officials recently removed signs reading ‘Muslims only,’ and last month, a delegation of 50 Jewish business leaders closely affiliated with Israel visited the Prophet’s Mosque, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, in Medina as part of a visit meant to promote mutual understanding, respect and tolerance.
“The delegation comprised members from 13 countries, and many were nervous before departure. Some wondered whether they would be allowed to enter the kingdom, be restricted in meetings, be limited in what they could say, or be able to move around freely…
“In the end, though, the opportunity to promote friendship, peace and collaboration was strong enough to overcome their doubts. Wherever we went, we found our delegation members and the Saudis shared deep family, personal and business experiences and began to explore business collaboration. It felt like old friends and family being reunited, not uncomfortable and guarded as many in the delegation had envisioned.”
Jorish went onto describe his impressions of Medina.
“Medina was sublime. Our guide took us into the open-air courtyard filled with massive umbrellas outside the prayer complex, which accommodates 1 million worshipers. We saw people from every corner of the globe speaking dozens of languages. When I sat down in sight of the mosque’s green dome, the resting place of the Prophet and two of the four righteous caliphs, with a vacant place for Jesus, I went through my own daily meditation process and thought deeply about the long arc of history. I looked at my fellow delegates and knew that each of them was forever changed by coming to the kingdom and to this holy place.”
The Saudi authorities have not commented on the report but are widely perceived to have given the green light to the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to normalise relations with Israel. This has sparked speculation that Riyadh will eventually follow the same course.
In May Zionist rabbis from America, Italy and France participated in an interfaith event in Saudi Arabia organised by the Muslim World League.
Last year a huge information leak revealed that several Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, bought Israeli spyware which can be used as a cyber-surveillance weapon.
In 2020 Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
And in 2018 Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel with the inauguration of an Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.