Photos taken by Ben Tzion, a 31-year-old Israeli blogger, show him inside the ‘Mosque of the Prophet’ in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site. The images, which the photographer has claimed are peaceful, have created a backlash of angry internet posts throughout the Muslim Middle-East, mainly from Qataris and Palestinians.
Ben Tzion, who was born in Russia, is posing with his Tefillin bag in the mosque, with his name inscribed on the bag in Hebrew lettering. The pictures came from inside the Saudi mosque where the ‘Prophet Mohammed’ is buried.
Tzion posted the images with the caption: “Jewish and Arab people share common history and blood lineage to Abraham/Ibrahim. With love and mutual respect, peace would come to the entire Middle East region.”
Tzion has recently been traveling to visit Muslim holy sites across the world and so far has been to places as far-flung as Tehran, Qom, Beirut and Riyadh. These places are all incredibly difficult for an Israeli to reach, while many are outright illegal. Tzion claims his trip is one of peace and is a private trip, but many have seen it as a sign of warming relations between the Saudis and Israel.
To add more to the oddity of the situation, Tzion told Israeli reporters that he lets people know that he is Israeli and that he has never been approached with any hostility. “They did know I’m an Israeli and that I also have other passports and that Jews are accepted in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
While on the ground things may have been amicable, online it was a different story. The backlash has been vociferous. A Twitter hashtag was created in Arabic which translates to: “A_Zionist_In_the_Prophet’s_Mosque.” It refers to Ben Tzion’s trip and has been used almost 100,000 times with people voicing their outrage.