Thursday, January 3, 2008

Egypt Permits Pilgrims to Cross Back Into Gaza

This NYTimes article provides an important icon for anyone invested in the prospects of peace in the Holy Land.

In many ways the dynamics harken to the enduring problem of Jerusalem, particularly the pilgrimage site Masjid Al Aqsa.

The religious rite of pilgrimage, when contaminated by religio-political elements including violence and security, make for a very complex set of elements and dynamics.

The Haj takes the same elements beyond Israel's jurisdiction into tense international relations with Muslim-state neighbors.

(Do not forget to click through these reports for access to the full articles.)

clipped from
Egypt allowed about 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims to cross back into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday

Israel had demanded that they travel back to the Gaza Strip via an Israeli-controlled border crossing, Kerem Shalom, where they could undergo Israeli security checks. But Hamas refused
saying that its supporters could be arrested by Israel.
Israeli officials suspect that some of the pilgrims brought back large sums of money and other contraband for Hamas.
The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, which rules from the West Bank, went to great efforts to organize an official quota of about 1,000 Gaza pilgrims, who were to travel to Saudi Arabia and back via Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.


Eugene Harnett said...

Frank, Can you explain more what you sense is the importance of this article? Why is it an icon for peace? The Palestinian return to Gaza doesn't sound like it's a religious passage as much as a political passage. And w/ Egypt controlling it, it doesn't have the impact of Israeli acknowledgement. So, I am unclear of why you emphasize the importance of this. Can you offer more of your insightful commentary? Thanks.

Frank said...

The point here is that Israel wants to be sensitive to the religious obligations of Palestinians, but it is afraid that when performing their religious duties they are also acquiring the means to threaten Israeli security.

Domestically this has an impoact on peace and policy decision regrading the unity of Jerusalem. But in this case it impacts international relations with its Muslim neighbors, this time with Egypt.

It also impacts Israel's decisions regarding the Fatah Hamas split. They tried to broker a deal to strengthen the hand of Abbas with whom they want to relate, but Egypt undercut that by scuttling Abbas's deal with Israel.

It is complicated indeed.

Gene Hart said...


We cannot separate political decisions from the religious world, can we? Especially in the Middle East.

This implies all the more the importance of religious leaders reconciling, building trust for their institutions and decisions that can be felt within and between their governments.

Religious leaders have more responsibility than ever. May Jehovah's love be expedited.