Meltem Özgenç - Hürriyet / Istanbul, February 25 () - Turkey’s Directorate General for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has included the al-Aqsa Mosque into the religious Umrah program that will be effective as of April 15.
One of the Muslim pilgrimages, the Umrah, which is not compulsory but is highly recommended for Muslims who can afford it, will also include the visiting of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Israel.
The Diyanet said they had included the al-Aqsa Mosque into the Umrah trip due to the huge demand they received from citizens.
While the applications for the new program started on Feb. 24, the first group to visit al-Aqsa under the Umrah trip will fly from Istanbul. The citizens will stay three days in Jerusalem, four days in Medina and seven days in Mecca.
Officials from Diyanet said Israeli officials responded positively about the al-Aqsa visit, saying that as long as the Turkish citizens who want to visit al-Aqsa within the concept of Umrah receive a visa from Israel, they would be able to go.
Diyanet officials said the al-Aqsa visit would be added to the original Umrah trip for the citizens who are able to receive a visa from Israel.
Turkish citizens who want to be involved in this new program need to apply to the muftis in the province or district.
During the “2014 Hajj Evaluation Meeting” held on Dec. 27-28, 2014, Diyanet head Mehmet Görmez had said that Jerusalem was a part of the Umrah trip in the past and that works were being conducted to incorporate it into the program.