Last updated: 13 September, 2016

Palestinians take a holiday dip – in Israeli waters

Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank swam at beaches in and around the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv Tuesday, after being granted permits to visit during the Eid al-Adha holiday.

A few thousand Palestinians celebrated the Muslim festival at the beach near Jaffa south of Tel Aviv with barbeques, swimming and lounging on the beach.

Palestinian women in burkinis swam or played with children near bikini-clad Israelis and foreigners.

Mohammed Khatib, a 44-year-old from the outskirts of Ramallah, said it was the first time he had swam in the sea in Israel despite living only an hour’s drive away.

“This is my first time here and I feel great,” he said, sitting with his wife and two young children on a grassy knoll near the beach.

He said however that his 14-year-old son was not given a permit.

In total, 100,000 visiting permits for Palestinians from the West Bank were issued by Israel for the Eid holiday which started on Monday, the Israeli department responsible said.

Many Palestinians went to Jerusalem to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, Islam’s third holiest site, while others chose to go to the beach.

A bus driver taking Palestinians to and from the West Bank said they had three times as many buses as last year.

Under the terms of the permits, they could cross over from 8:00 am and needed to return by 8:00 pm, he said.

Alaa Tahboon, a shy 13-year-old from Hebron in the southern West Bank, said it was her first time swimming in the sea.

“I am really happy,” she said with a smile.

Maher Hussein, a 32-year-old from Ramallah, said it was a “beautiful day. The weather is lovely, the water too.”

He said he wanted to stay longer than one day, but understood he had to obey the terms of his permit to be able to get another one.

However Gil Ochyon, an Israeli lifeguard who used a megaphone to urge swimmers to be careful in rudimentary Arabic, said he was unhappy at what he perceived as a double standard, arguing that Israelis were unwelcome in Palestinian cities.