Israel brands TV reporter's Makkah video 'stupid'

Journalist Gil Tamary of Channel 13 News called himself the first Israeli reporter to enter Makkah

Gil Tamary has offended people with his visit to Makkah. He apologised for the report after the backlash. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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An Israeli TV journalist's 10-minute news report, where he called himself the first Israeli reporter to enter Makkah, has been branded “stupid” by a government minister.

Israeli journalist Gil Tamary of Channel 13 News was in Saudi Arabia to cover the visit of US President Joe Biden on Friday.

While in the kingdom, he filmed a 10-minute report that aired on the channel, in which Tamary travels to the Grand Mosque by car. As he crosses into Islam's holiest site, he says in English: “Now I can say I was in Makkah”.

As he gets closer, his driver’s face blurred, he says: “The dream came true”.

Tamary, the channel’s chief international news editor, is then shown climbing the Mount of Mercy, which oversees the plain of Arafat, revered as the place where Prophet Mohammad held his last sermon 14 centuries ago.

His report calls him the first Israeli reporter to enter the city.

“Road signs also change: they declare in red that non-Muslims must get off this road immediately,” he wrote in Hebrew on the site.

“We decided to drive straight on, on a road intended for Muslims only. After the security check, the Saudi policeman ordered us to continue driving towards Makkah.”

An Israeli minister on Wednesday called the report “stupid and harmful” to US-led efforts to normalise ties in the Gulf.

"I'm sorry [but] it was a stupid thing to do and take pride in," Israel's regional co-operation minister Esawi Freij, who is Muslim, told public broadcaster Kan.

"It was irresponsible and damaging to air this report just for the sake of ratings."

Israeli journalist, Gil Tamari. Photo: Wikimedia

The Twitter hashtag "A Jew in Mecca's Grand Mosque" trended after the report was aired.

Many users of the social media site condemned the visit, pointing out Tamary broke the law.

Saudi Salem Bin Julaid wrote: "In fact, he's just a tourist breaking the law. Everyone can visit Saudi Arabia, which is a diverse continent in climate and geography without compromising the feelings of Muslims and the holy place."

An Israeli calling himself Guy wrote: "Then why didn't they send a Muslim reporter instead of you? Another reporter can also showcase the beauties of Makkah. In fact, they may not even need a foreign passport as there are arrangements for Israeli Arabs to make Hajj. What you did is disrespectful."

Jewish Yemeni Yosef Mahfoud Levi wrote: "My Muslim friends, Channel 13 correspondent Jill Tamari who entered Makkah, offended Muslims and hurt their feelings. [That] does not represent me nor does he represent Israel."

Tamary apologised for the report after the backlash.

"If anyone takes offence to this video, I deeply apologise," he wrote in English on Twitter. "The purpose of this entire endeavour was to showcase the importance of Mecca and the beauty of the religion and, in doing so, foster more religious tolerance and inclusion," he said.

It was not known if authorities had approved the journey.

"My dear friends in Israel, a journalist of yours entered the city of Makkah, holy to Islam, and filmed there shamelessly," Mohammed Saud, an activist who is in favour of Saudi-Israel ties, wrote on Twitter.

"Shame on you Channel 13 for hurting the religion of Islam like that. You are rude."

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: July 20, 2022, 11:13 PM