A pro-Israel Jewish media outlet has been allowed to report from Medinah – a holy city which has until recently been prohibited to non-Muslims.
The Jewish News, which takes a clear pro-Israel and Zionist stance, posted a video on TikTok of its news editor, Justin Cohen, stranding in an unspecified location in Medinah.
The newspaper claimed this was the first report of any Jewish media outlet from Medinah and was part of a four day fact-finding mission organised by the Woolf Institute “to explore social changes in the country, relations with the Jews and Christians and the possibility of closer ties with Israel.”
Cohen said in the video: “I’m standing here in the ancient city of Medinah in the south of Saudi Arabia, the city where Islam first flourished at the time of Muhammad and whose population was remarkably once a third Jewish.
“But just a year ago it would have been impossible for me to stand here on Medinah soil until a change in the law under the current authorities. All non-Muslims would have been blocked from getting on a plane from Riyadh. Yet those people would have missed out on a rich Jewish history.
“1,400 years after a Jew last planted dates trees here we did exactly the same receiving a Schecheiyanu (a blessing) to mark the occasion. We saw the cemetery where it was believed that both Jews and Muslims were laid to rest, and perhaps most movingly heard about the legendary Jewish figure who offered to join forces with the Prophet Muhammad to fight off his enemies. He would die in that battle leaving behind his vast wealth to Muhammad who would in turn donate it to the most poor.”
Until last year, non-Muslims were banned from visiting Makkah and Medinah 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 Medinah.
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.
Other scholars say non-Muslims are allowed to visit Medinah for a specific period of time to complete their business.
Last year fifty Jewish business leaders closely affiliated with Israel visited Masjid al-Nabawi in Medinah at the invitation of the Saudi authorities.
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.”
The visits by non-Muslims to Medinah come amid a westernisation and de-Islamisation process in the country under the leadership of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
There is also much speculation that Saudi Arabia will normalise relations with Israel in the future.
Saudi authorities are widely perceived to have given the green light to the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to normalise relations with Israel.
In May last year Zionist rabbis from America, Italy and France participated in an interfaith event in Saudi Arabia organised by the Muslim World League.
In 2021 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.