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Qatar World Cup: Jewish organisation says kosher food and public prayer banned

World Jewish Congress said meals cooked to Jewish dietary rules and public prayer have been banned during tournament
A man holds a Qatar flag as he watches the opening match of the Fifa World Cup 2022 between Qatar and Ecuador in Souq Waqif, 20 November 2022 (AFP)

A prominent Jewish organisation has claimed that Qatar has banned the sale of cooked kosher food at the World Cup and has banned Jews from performing public worship during the tournament. 

The World Jewish Congress (WJC), a Geneva-based lobbying group for Jewish causes, said that meals cooked to Jewish dietary rules and public prayers have been banned.

Ronald S Lauder, the president of the WJC, said in a statement: "I am outraged by reports that Qatari authorities have banned the sale of cooked kosher food as well as prohibited Jews from congregating for public prayer, in connection with their presence at the World Cup."

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He added that the decision came as an estimated 10,000 Jewish fans from Israel and other countries are expected to travel to Qatar to watch the quadrennial sporting event.

"The World Cup should serve as a unifying event for all sports fans, regardless of religious affiliation, who come together because of their love of sports," Lauder said, as he called on Qatari authorities "to safeguard the ability of Jewish fans to openly practise their faith."

Doha, which formerly maintained trade ties with Israel between 1995 and 2000, has allowed Israeli fans and some Palestinians to travel from Tel Aviv airport to Qatar for the first time in both countries' history. 

A representative of a Jewish organisation told the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post that they were promised they would be allowed "prayer spaces in order for religious Jews who came to see the games to have a place of worship. [However,] We were recently told that they banned places of worship for Jews because they cannot secure them."

The source said that, at the moment, Jewish fans have only been "allowed to sell cold bagel sandwiches" in Qatar.

Americans Jews cancel visit

The Jerusalem Post reported that a group of wealthy American Jews had cancelled their trip to the Gulf nation because of the absence of kosher food and Jewish praying areas.

"There is no kosher food, there are no Shabbat meals and no public prayer services. They would separate religion from sports, so how come great Qatar doesn't know how to secure Jewish worshippers?" a source told The Jerusalem Post.

Last week, the influential New York-based Rabbi Marc Schneier announced that the first kosher kitchen would be opened in Qatar to cater for Jewish fans during the World Cup, and thanked Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, for spearheading the initiative.

"The leadership of the State of Qatar is performing a 'mitzvah' by making kosher food available for members of the worldwide Jewish community, including those traveling from Israel," Schneier said.

"Furthermore, the Qataris have stood by and followed through on every commitment that was made to welcome Jewish fans to this prestigious event," he added.

Middle East Eye reached out to the Qatari government and Fifa World Cup organisers for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.

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