'Are We Friends Now?' How a Saudi Blogger Hosting Israeli Tourists is Changing Politics

Published December 8th, 2019 - 11:05 GMT
Saudi blogger hosts two Israeli tourists in his home
Saudi blogger hosts two Israeli tourists in his home

A Saudi blogger who hosted two Israeli tourists in his home has come into the spotlight after Israel's foreign ministry Twitter account in Arabic praised him for his hospitality.  

Translation: "It pleases us to see the Saudi @mohsaud08 who had visited us, celebrating with his guests from Israeli and no doubt this is the result of breaking barriers of doubt that have been built over the decades. God willing there will be more gatherings and friendships and we welcome all in our homes. May God preserve generosity."

Mohammed Saud shared videos in which he and his guests, Avi and Beni, sang traditional Jewish songs together and exchanged pleasantries. 

The Israeli guests appear in the videos wearing traditional Saudi dress alongside their host. Avi is also pictured visiting tourist landmarks. 

Saud's Twitter profile cover features the Saudi and Israeli flags and even though he describes himself as a non-political activist, his bio includes the hashtags #likud and #only_bibi referring to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his party. He also tweets almost exclusively in Hebrew.

Saudi and Israeli relations have historically been tense but since the kingdom began implementing drastic reforms including the introduction of tourist visas, a new relationship is beginning to form both politically and culturally.

Up until a few months ago, reactions to Saud's video and Israel's publicity of the visit would never have been quite this supportive.

Translation: "Welcome to Saudi. Unfortunately twice I've missed the chance to visit Israel due to personal reasons, but maybe in the future I'll be able to visit. I've said it before, Israel is no longer an enemy and political circumstances change." 

Translation: "Saudi's doors are open for all, welcome. Disclaimer: racism, hate against religions, especially those who exploit the [Palestinian] cause, is not welcome."

Still, there were many voices online who objected to the normalization of Israeli-Saudi relations citing long-term political differences.

Translation: "An unfortunate tweet! We reject these voices in the Arab world under any justification. The Zionist entity is an enemy of Arabs."

Translation: "There is a difference between a Jewish person and an Israeli. We don't have a problem with the Jewish faith, welcome to our country. But we do have a political problem with Zionists or what you call "Israel."

While there are no official diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi there have been instances in the past of Saudi officials defending Israeli interests behind closed doors, particularly when it comes to the common threat they face from Iran and Iranian-backed groups like Hezbollah.

More and more, both countries are becoming more publicly vocal about their changing relationship and in turn the public seems to be responding favorably toward their normalized ties. 

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