Israel is warning its citizens who are heading to upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar to be vigilant and try to mask their Israeli identity due to concerns for their safety in the Muslim country.
Israel’s warning is part of a Foreign Ministry campaign, launched Wednesday, to educate the nation’s soccer fans about laws and customs in the conservative Muslim country.
The campaign asks Israelis to hide any Israeli symbols — presumably a reference to Israeli flags and Stars of David.
The campaign website, in Hebrew and Arabic, outlines a potential minefield awaiting Israeli tourists who will find themselves in a country that criminalizes homosexuality, bans drugs, restricts alcohol consumption, and has a tenuous relationship with the state of Israel.
In addition, Israeli fans will also be interacting with fans from Iran, whose government for decades has decried the existence of the state of Israel and launched proxy attacks against the country.
“The Iranian team will be in the World Cup, and we estimate that tens of thousands fans will follow it, and there will be other fans from Gulf countries that we don’t have diplomatic relationship with,” said Lior Haiat, a senior Israeli diplomat.
“Downplay your Israeli presence and Israeli identity for the sake of your personal security,” Haiat said, addressing the Israeli fans.
About 1.2 million international visitors are expected to visit the Qatar World Cup tournament that begins on Sunday and countries in the Middle East struck a landmark deal allowing Israelis without foreign passports to travel to despite the lack of diplomatic ties.
As part of the agreement, Qatar will permit Israeli diplomats, through a private travel company, to provide consular support to Israelis during the tournament. The diplomats left for Qatar on Wednesday.
Nearly 4,000 Israeli and 8,000 Palestinian fans have an entry visa to Qatar for the tournament. The ministry expects as many as 20,000 Israelis could ultimately attend the World Cup.
Associated Press contributed to this report.