A Jewish journalist of Russian descent posted photos and videos on his Instagram account on Monday from the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad, Madina in Saudi Arabia. The posts prompted angry comments from many users, leading Instagram to suspend his account on Tuesday.
Ben Tzion, a blogger and writer for the Times of Israel, shared his pictures dressed in traditional Arab garb and a small satchel adorned with Hebrew writing from inside the Al Masjid an-Nabawi, as well as a video of a sermon likely taken during the same visit on social media.
The blogger was officially invited to Riyadh to attend the annual Misk Global Forum, which was held on November 15-16, and his visit to Madina was likely part of the same trip.
“Jewish and Arab people share common history and blood lineage to Abraham/Ibrahim. With love and mutual respect, peace would come to the entire Middle East region”, read the caption on the images which Tzion posted.
Photos and videos Ben Tzion posted on Instagram account from within the mosque had been viewed more than 30,000 times and garnered some 3,500 comments.
The Arabic hashtag #صهيوني_بالحرم_النبوي “A Zionist at the Prophet’s Mosque” on Twitter has attracted more than 90,000 tweets in the past 24 hours.
As per the Saudi law, only Muslims are permitted to visit the holy sites in the Kingdom and there are checkpoints at every entry and exit locations to the holy sites. Non-Muslims cannot enter or travel through Makkah but in the city of Madina, both Muslims and Non-Muslims are allowed to enter but Non-Muslims are barred from entering the Al Masjid an-Nabawi.
Speaking to the Times of Israel, Tzion – who became an Israeli citizen in 2014 – said that he had acquired visas and entered the holy sites legally, though not specifying which of his passports he travelled on. Tzion left Saudi Arabia a few days ago and is now in a country that has diplomatic relations with Israel.
The release of the images along with deluge of reports of Saudi-Israeli normalisation have been taken as a rupture of one of the principle social pacts between the Saudi royal family and the general populace.