The Shmooze

Welcome to Jordan: Check Your Yarmulke at the Border

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

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There’s plenty of controversy in Europe, Canada and the U.S. regarding the banning of burqas and the restrictions on religious clothing and jewelry in public schools and other settings.

But so far, no one has proposed that religious items get checked at the border.

In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, there are recent reports that yarmulkes, tefillin and hats that looked like ultra-Orthodox garb are all no-nos for businessmen entering a country officially at peace with its Jewish neighbor.

The objects are being confiscated by Jordanian tourism police from Israelis crossing the border for “security reasons” — presumably because identifiably Jewish garb would threaten their safety. According to Ynet:

A., an Israeli businessman who visits Jordan often was amazed when he was asked to leave his yarmulkes in a safe on his most recent visit to the country. “We know tefillin are confiscated and we recently heard brimmed hats were being taken, so we came with regular hats,” he told Ynet.

“The man in the counter asked us to take off our hats and we thought it was standard procedure for passport control. But when the man saw the yarmulkes, he took us to the tourism police. The officer there said that the ban to wear yarmulkes was ‘for our own benefit,’ put it in the safe and gave us a form with which to receive the yarmulkes when we return.”

The businessman grumbled that the Jordanian tourism police seemed more perturbed by the prospect that they would be identifiably Jewish — not identifiably Israeli. While he was detained at the border crossing, a bunch of young people wearing IDF training T-shirts were allowed to breeze right by.


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