UJIA say Israel tours must apply for permission to visit Kotel

The tour body says groups must get approval for visits because it lies across the Green Line


Youth groups have voiced “a lot of disquiet” after United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), which arranges Israel tours for 16-year-olds, said they must apply for permission to visit the Old City of Jerusalem because it lies across the Green Line.

In a policy document sent last week to its 12 partnered youth groups, UJIA said its new “general rule” would be to “not fund or support activities beyond the Green Line” and that its activities “will not be undertaken in a manner which treats areas beyond the Green Line as being part of the State of Israel”.

Any trip beyond the Green Line — the demarcation set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements — would require “an explanation as to how it justifies an exception from the General Rule”, as well as permission from a guardian and UJIA.

The policy states that trips to the Old City “will likely be approved”, but would be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.

The document cited “compliance with UK public policy” and its charitable purposes as reasons for the new policy.

The policy change was prompted after two participants on a UJIA-supported British Birthright visit last summer abandoned the trip in protest at being accommodated on a settlement for three nights.

Israel tour leaders, including those from left-wing youth movements RSY-Netzer and LJY-Netzer, wrote to UJIA, asking them to ‘publicly clarify their position and commit not to bring future UK tour groups to stay in Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line.’

The Charity Commission categorised it a “serious incident”, an event that risked harming the UJIA’s beneficiaries, money and reputation.

The new policy is designed to guard against such debacles in the future. But a source said UJIA’s new policy had resulted in “a lot of disquiet among the youth movements […], not least because of the lack of consultation with UJIA.”

Another source said the new policy “essentially says that the Old City of Jerusalem is not part of Israel and that [youth] groups will need special permission to go there. [It’s] astonishing.”

Four youth groups under UJIA’s purview, Bnei Akiva, Ezra, Tribe and FZY, said they had raised questions and were “pleased they have been listening to us.”

A spokesman for UJIA said they were working closely with the youth groups “to address any concerns they have”.

He added that the policy had been formulated “to protect [its] work in Israel […] and to comply with UJIA’s charitable obligations […] all whilst remaining neutral on the politics of the situation.”

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