The great mosque in Casablanca
Photo: Yaron Visbin

Moroccans fume over Israeli travel alert

World Federation of Moroccan Jewry chairman says African country's officials, Jewish community leaders enraged by Counter-Terroriosm Bureau's advisory warning Israelis not to visit Morocco

The Counter-Terrorism Bureau's travel alert citing Morocco as a dangerous destination is a miserable decision putting the relationship between the countries to the test, according to Sam Ben Chetrit, chairman of the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry.


This came as a response to the alert issued last week warning travelers from visiting the North African country which constitutes "serious concrete threat."


Ben Chetrit said he had received telephone calls from Moroccan governmental officials and Jewish community heads who were enraged by the decision, saying it causes great injustice giving the wrong impression on the Moroccan people's attitude toward Israeli tourists.


"Only several weeks ago the king hosted a high-ranking delegation from Israel which included Knesset members and community heads," Ben Chetrit said. "It was a warm and cordial meeting meant to fortify the relationship between the two countries.


"Morocco is even safer from Jerusalem, and is one of the only countries tourists can travel all of parts without fear, day or night. Things have always been this way. Israeli tourism is very important to the Moroccan people and Israelis have never encountered any problems there."


Moroccan market (Photo: Yaron Visbin)


Ben Chetrit stated he expects the Counter-Terrorism Bureau to reconsider the alert which he regards uncalled for.


David Edri, head of the Moroccan department in the Yambateva travel agency, said that the warning was issued right before the Jewish High Holidays and that thousands of Israelis intend to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Sukkot there this year.


Edri said that last Sukkot 80 organized groups from Israel traveled to Morocco and that there are even more travelers this year.


"This decision puts in question a vast and flourishing tourist industry to Morocco spanning many years. Hundreds of tourist groups travel to Morocco every year and they never encountered hostility because they are Israelis. Moroccan security services are making great efforts in making sure the tourists are safe, regardless of their nationality," Edri said.


Impossible situation

Edri also added that the Counter-Terrorism Bureau is putting travel agents at an impossible situation, as on the one hand it prevents them from recommending tours to a destination under the travel alert, and on the other hand agencies are certain that Morocco is one of the safest countries in the world for the Israeli tourist.


Edri went so far as to address Counter-Terrorism Bureau members, asking them to meet with officials familiar with the country and even suggested they visit the north African country in order to see for themselves they way Israelis are being treated there.


He also added that should the Bureau not retract the alert, long-term damage would be caused to the relationship between the countries as well as to Israeli tourism in Morocco.


Meanwhile, Morocco currently holds record-topping demand of holiday packages for honeymooners, divers, and family vacations in addition to the traditional Israeli trips of travelers exploring their roots.




פרסום ראשון: 08.19.09, 08:10
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