CAIRO: About 5,000 Coptic Christians are planning to visit Jerusalem starting from April 2 to attend Easter celebrations, in violation of the Coptic Church’s policy, Youm7 reported.
The church, under the late Pope Cyril VI, in 1968 established a policy of discouraging Copts from traveling to Palestine, after the 1967 annexation by Israel, as long as Egyptian Muslims would not be able to make the trip, Pastor Paulis Halim told Youm7.
Although the Egyptian and Israeli governments maintain diplomatic relations, interactions between private citizens is a strict taboo in all sectors, with an exception for the tourism sector; the Taba border regularly receives tourists arriving from Israel.
A delegation of journalists that traveled to Palestinian occupied territories in 2013 was charged with “normalizing” relations with Israel, and was subjected to a review by the Journalists’ Syndicate. The group was finally acquitted in December 2013.
The first flights are scheduled to start Thursday April 2 via Egypt Air and Air Sinai.
Last year, the church issued a statement assuring that it had not altered its stance on the travel ban, which it characterized as a “patriotic stance.” Halim said that those who chose to travel may also be punished through the church.
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria added in statements later 2014, however, “there are old people feeling the approach of death, I cannot ban them from traveling, nor Egyptians who have other nationalities. Things have changed.”