Beginning Thursday, Muslim Palestinians from the West Bank will start the annual pilgrimage to Mecca via the Allenby Bridge on the West Bank’s border with Jordan. The Palestinian Authority crossings director, Nathmi Muhana, announced that a total of 5,800 Palestinians from the West Bank are expected to depart for Mecca over a three day period to perform the Hajj. In order to avoid an avalanche of pilgrims, Muhana said that travel will be organized in three groups. On Thursday, 1,400 Palestinians will travel in the first group. Two additional groups will follow, one on Friday, and the other on Saturday.
Muhana said also that the travel arrangements of pilgrims who have relatives who were either imprisoned or killed by Israel, and who received funds donated by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, will be announced later.
According to Muhana, an agreement was reached between the P.A. and Israeli authorities to facilitate the passage of buses transporting pilgrims through Israeli army checkpoints. Due to the fact that the pilgrims will leave from different West Bank districts, extra staff will be deployed at the bridge to ease the crossing into Jordan, Muhana added.
The Hajj, the greater pilgrimage, takes place in Mecca and nearby sites once a year. During the Hajj, several million people from different nationalities travel to Mecca to pray in the Masjid al-Haram, the largest mosque in the world. Every Muslim adult who is able must perform the Hajj once in a lifetime.