On the border between Jordan and Israeli, hundreds of Israeli Arabs have been gathering for the beginning of a pilgrimage to the holy Moslem city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.
On the border between Jordan and Israeli, hundreds of Israeli Arabs have been gathering for the beginning of a pilgrimage to the holy Moslem city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. This is only the third time Israeli Arabs have been able to make the trip -- known as the Haj, and on Tuesday (16 October) one thousand five hundred of them set off on the first stage of their journey.
SYNOPSIS: The buses that were to carry the pilgrims were parked a few hundred yards from the Jordanian border. Their waiting passengers took the opportunity to chat and stretch their legs before embarking on the 750-mile (1200-kilometre) journey across the Saudi Arabian desert. They hope to reach Mecca within ten days.
The pilgrimage is only the third that Israeli Arabs have been able to make since 1948. Every Moslem is expected to visit Mecca at least once in his lifetime.
As well as rugged terrain, another prospect facing the pilgrims is a series of bureaucratic screenings and issues of identity cards. Fifteen hundred Arabs set out on Tuesday and all of them had to have their papers checked. In Jordan, they will need yet more identify cards in order to get into Saudi Arabia.
These pilgrims were just the first. Another four thousand five hundred are dur to make the trip across the Allenby Bridge during the next few weeks. They will all be in Mecca for the celebrations marking the climax of the city's Holy Month -- along with an estimated one million other devotees.