As a private citizen, Ben Tzion brings messages of peace and friendship to those he meets, and they respond warmly, but Arab social media is outraged.
By: Bayta Jerenberg, World Israel News
A Russian-born Israeli Jew, Ben Tzion defines his hobby as visiting Arab holy places. He has been to see holy sites across the Muslim world, including mosques in Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and has posted pictures and comments about his trips on his social media accounts.
In an interview with Times of Israel, the 31-year-old traveler took pains to stress that he had entered all his destinations legally, using valid foreign passports and acquiring visas whenever required.
In his interactions with ordinary people in these Arab countries, they responded in kind to his friendliness and respect for the hosting culture’s religious norms, even when mentioning his country of origin.
‘They love Israel and the Jewish people’
“They tell me they love Israel and the Jewish people,” he said. “Among regular people, there is no hatred. I was in Beirut two weeks ago — there’s no hatred, people are friendly.”
“We don’t talk about Zionism,” he added. “We don’t talk about politics, about a one-state solution, two-state solution, three-state solution…. When I meet people for the first time, they don’t jump into politics. They talk in normal, human terms: they ask, how are you? How can we help you? How is your stay so far? No one is asking me about my views about international affairs.”
However, photos of Tzion dressed in traditional Arab garb inside such pilgrimage sites as the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina (Islam’s second holiest site) have caused an outpouring of vilification and outrage on social media.
The Arabic hashtag “A_Zionist_In_the_Prophet’s_Mosque,” which refers to Tzion’s trip, was used over 90,000 times in the two days after he posted his pictures, Times of Israel reported. Many protested that non-Moslems are not allowed in the holy sites (this is true of Mecca, the holiest site), or harshly criticized Saudi Arabia for “allowing” a Zionist in when Qataris are currently forbidden due to the break in relations between the two Arab countries.