A Saudi Arabian driver was arrested after helping a journalist from non-Muslim origins sneak into the sacred city of Mecca. An online outrage ensued against the journalist currently working for an Israeli News Channel. The Twitter hashtag “A Jew in Mecca’s Grand Mosque” trended as the video gained views.
Fifty-five-year-old Gil Tamary, a Jewish Israeli reporter, posted a video on his Twitter account on July 18, in which he had a conversation with another Israeli journalist, Amnon Levy, about the "behind the scenes" of his visit to the sacred city. And later, the video where he snuck into Mecca, disregarding the ban on non-Muslims, who are forbidden from entering the holy city, was broadcasted on Israeli TV, Channel 13, on July 19.
Police in Mecca say they have arrested a Saudi man who helped an Israeli-Jewish reporter sneak into Islam's holiest city where only Muslims are allowed to enter. https://t.co/cIegPtTE0E
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 23, 2022
The veteran journalist filmed himself in Mecca for about 10 minutes. He visited the Islamic religious site where it is traditionally believed that the Prophet Muhammad stood and delivered his last sermon about 1400 years ago. In this holy site, Muslim pilgrims clad in robes gather together to pray during the Hajj pilgrimage.
Tamary made it clear that he intentionally slipped into Mecca. He boasted of being the first Jewish man from Israel to enter the religiously bound city, although he didn't clarify to the driver about his origins during the recording period.
In the video, Tamary, along with his Saudi driver, passed a highway sign where it was written that "non-Muslims cannot pass" and then passed under a giant Quran replica which is the main entry path to the city. He quoted, "The dream came true," as they made their way to Mount Arafat.
This Israeli journalist snuck into Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, despite an entry ban for non-Muslims pic.twitter.com/cACLnVgZf3
— TRT World (@trtworld) July 20, 2022
When he arrives at the mount, he is questioned by the religious police, who want to verify whether he is a Muslim or not. That is when Tamary decided to leave.
Mecca Regional Police Department detained and charged the driver for alleged complicity in transferring and facilitating the entry of a non-Muslim journalist to the sacred site. The un-named accused driver has been thrown over to the public prosecution for violating state laws. The police also referred the journalist's actions to the prosecutors to take the necessary action against him. Still, he is unlikely to return to Saudi Arabia again to face the legal consequences.
Mecca is Islam's holiest city, where Muslims from different nationalities and backgrounds are permitted to enter. It is off-limits to non-Muslims because a particular code of conduct and behavior is required for all the people within its boundaries, as well as precise forms of decency, prayers, and ritual cleansing.
Tamary knew what he was doing was illegal but insisted that he wanted to showcase "a place that is so important to our Muslim brothers and sisters."
Both the reporter and Channel 13 posted an apology on Twitter. Tamari stated that his report on Mecca was not intended to offend the Muslims. At the same time, the news channel said that the report was put in motion by "journalistic curiosity" and a desire to witness and see things firsthand. But their efforts did little to subside the anger of the Saudi Arabian masses.
Disclaimer: I would like to reiterate that this visit to Mecca was not intended to offend Muslims, or any other person. If anyone takes offense to this video, I deeply apologize. The purpose of this entire endeavor was to showcase the importance of Mecca and the beauty
— גיל תמרי (@tamarygil) July 19, 2022
An Israeli minister called the stunt “stupid and harmful” to efforts of normalizing ties in the Gulf. Esawi Friej, Israel’s regional cooperation minister, who is also a Muslim, said, “I’m sorry (but) it was a stupid thing to do and take pride in. It was irresponsible and damaging to air this report just for the sake of ratings.”