A group of Israeli deputy mayors seeking to visit Petra was reportedly stopped at the Israel-Jordan border on Tuesday and refused entry over their religious attire.

The group, which included religious and ultra-Orthodox deputy mayors who were attending a conference in Israel’s southern resort city of Eilat, arrived at the border crossing at around 7:30 a.m. For security reasons, they had agreed to replace their kipahs with hats for the duration of the visit, but when they arrived at the Jordanian side of the border, they were refused entry because some of them were wearing tzitzit (specially knotted Jewish ritual fringes) under their clothes.

“During the first security check, we were told [by Jordanian border security] to take off our kipahs and put hats on instead,” Givatayim Deputy Mayor Moshe Goldstein told Israel Hayom. “When the security screening was over, they stopped us again because they realized some in the group were wearing tzitzit. They even took aside the women and made them undress.”

“After the second inspection, they still weren’t pleased and asked the entire group to wait for a third security screening. At this point, our guide said that they [border security] contacted Amman for approval and that we had to sign something saying we were only going to visit Petra and nothing else.”

At that point, said Goldstein, the group decided to give up and head back to Eilat.

“We just decided to go back to Eilat. The atmosphere was harsh and alienating and our religious friends were greatly offended,” he said.

According to Goldstein, even though the group included Arab deputy mayors as well, “the whole thing just felt like harassment. It felt like anti-Semitism.”

David Ben-Zion, deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council, said “the whole experience was humiliating; it felt like a national humiliation. Even the secular members of the group were furious about it.”

“We are told that there is peace with Jordan, but I don’t know that any other country in the world would have humiliated Jews like that. The Jordanians’ demand that we remove the tzitzit is nothing less than an anti-Semitic scandal, and it is another ominous sign of our relationship with our ‘peace’-pursuing neighbors,” he said. “I can only guess what kind of elaborate apology the Israeli Foreign Ministry would have issued to the media had an Arab been asked to remove his keffiyeh or a Christian his cross upon entering Israel.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is reviewing the incident.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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