After a two year hiatus from pilgrimage trips caused by the pandemic, Egypt’s national carrier Egypt Air carried 680 Egyptian Coptic pilgrims on Thursday evening to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem. The Coptic pilgrims boarded two Boeing 777 planes, each with a capacity of more than 350 passengers.
According to Ahram Online, EgyptAir will continue to operate its flights from Cairo Airport to Tel Aviv, which started on 17 April, to transport about 3,000 Coptic pilgrims until 24 April (Coptic Easter), according to a statement by the sources on Thursday.
The pilgrimage trip includes visits to several holy places, namely: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mount Zion, Via Dolorosa, Jericho, Monastery of Temptation, the Dead Sea and the Mount of Olives.
The trip will cost pilgrims between $990-1150. Pilgrims must take a PCR test 72 hours before traveling, provided that they have not been vaccinated in six months. Upon arrival at the Israeli airport, pilgrims will be required to take another PCR test. This time of year, many Copts wish to travel to the Holy Land, and Jerusalem in particular.
However, a papal decree issued in 1979 by the late Pope Shenouda III prohibits them from travelling there.
The decree was issued to protest to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since the Camp David Accords signed between Egypt and Israel in 1978 there have been no official travel restrictions between the two countries. However, many Coptic Egyptians have defied the decree, choosing to make the pilgrimage.
In early October, a plane branded with the logo of Egypt’s national carrier landed in Israel for the first time. The flight was described as “historic” by the Israel Airport Authority.
Earlier this week, the first direct flight between the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv and Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh kicked off. In mid-March, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced that Egypt and Israel agreed to expand direct flights between the two countries, and that a direct flight route between Tel Aviv and Sharm El-Sheikh would begin operating in April during the Jewish holiday of Passover.