Pilgrims Face New Obstacle in Holy Land

JERUSALEM, JAN. 23, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Israeli authorities have imposed new security moves that might keep pilgrims from visiting holy places in the Palestinian territories.

AsiaNews reported that Israeli border officials have been passing a leaflet in English and Arabic to travelers arriving in Israel and Palestine.

Written in large print is “Welcome to the State of Israel.” The leaflet specifies that “entry into the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria …, is forbidden without the attainment of prior written authorization.”

Those areas would include Bethlehem, Jericho, Emmaus and Qumran, traditional destinations for all Christian pilgrims, observed AsiaNews, an agency of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions.

Israeli authorities promise a response to written entry requests within five working days. Only a written response from the military government’s Foreign Relations Office constitutes a valid authorization.

Anyone daring to enter these violence-torn territories without authorization risks serious sanctions, the leaflet says. It warns of “legal measures” and even “deportation and refusal of future re-entry into the State of Israel.”