A delegation of 330 Druze clergymen led by Knesset Member Said Naffaa (Balad) and Sheik Ali Muadi, director of the Druze-Syrian relations committee, left for Syria Thursday morning despite the Interior Ministry's decision to deny their applications to do so.
The group entered Syria via Jordan to evade the travel restrictions.
Naffaa's office said the delegation sought to strengthen relations between Druze Arabs in Israel and their families in Syria.
The delegation has been invited to several formal receptions in Syria and the group plans to participate in religious ceremonies.
MK Naffaa filed a request with Interior Affairs Minister Meir Sheetrit asking him to allow Druze followers to travel to the tomb of Habil in Zabadani, located some 30 miles west of Damascus.
Israel has allowed Druze to perform the pilgrimage to the Habil shrine since 1988. Habil is the Arab name for Abel, Cain's brother. The two sons of Adam and Eve are mentioned, though not by these names, in the Quran,
Naffaa's office told Ynet the purpose of the visit was to cultivate the relations between the Druze in Syria and those in Israel.
Sheetrit denied the request. Naffaa said in response that Sheetrit had said that officials on all levels refuse to allow the clergymen to visit Syrian and Lebanon.
Muadi's office had previously filed a petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of 4,011 Druze demanding they be allowed to visit these countries. But after two years of deliberations, the court accepted the security establishment's position that allowing clergymen to travel to Syria via Jordan would allow Iranian intelligence and Hizbullah to recruit them. The plaintiff's were outraged at the suggestion.
Balad MKs are no strangers to Syria, last year several MKs conducted a highly publicized visit to the neighbording state. Last week fugitive former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara also paid a visit to Damascus and met with President Bahar Assad.
MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) addressed the report and said Naffaa was "following in the footsteps of Bishara, who started out by visiting capital cities of nations and ended with him acting as an agent of the enemy."
Eitam said he expected the security establishment to determine what Naffaa's dealings in Damascus were. Eitam said the attorney general was obligated to warn Naffaa in advance that traveling to an enemy country illegally would lead to criminal charges being filed against him upon his return.