The guests plan to tour holy sites in Jerusalem, despite a prohibition by Pope Shenouda III (the 117th Pope and Patriarch of the Church of Alexandria, who died in 2012) not to visit the Israeli capital as long as the city is under occupation.
This is just the second time since the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979 that a group of Copts arrives in Israel from Egypt, mainly because of the ban.
An Egyptian security source at the Cairo airport told Palestinian news agency Maan that additional groups would fly to Israel in the coming days, and that the total number of tourists could reach up to 4,000 people – a 40% increase compared to last year.
The new Coptic pope, Theodoros II, who took office in November 2012, has yet to make a decision on whether to adopt Pope Shenouda's approach in regards to visits to Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, several senior Coptic Church officials have stressed in the past that the prohibition to visit Jerusalem was still valid and that there had been no decision to cancel it. As they did last year, church officials are threatening to punish anyone going to Jerusalem.