A U.S. evangelical group has irked Jordanians – including the Arab country’s tourism ministry – for showing its ancient city of Petra as the main image of its “2016 Israel Tour” online.
Jordanians on social media considered the move as a snub of their country’s heritage.
Some poked fun, commenting that in the same context, Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza could be used to promote a tour in another country or that the Statue of Liberty would not be an obvious icon for New York.
Jordan’s ministry of tourism on Tuesday suggested to The Jordan Times that it was considering taking legal action for the group’s portrayal of Petra as an Israeli site.
However, Precept Ministries International, which claims to have millions of followers, had a small text on its promotional ad that reads: “Petra Jordan. One of the seven new wonders of the world.”
Ministry Secretary General Issa Gammoh stated that authorities rejected Jordan’s Petra being an “extension destination” of a tour in Israel.
The historic site, carved from rock around 2,300 years ago, should remain an “independent” Jordanian symbol, he added.
“It is a fact that a certain body markets Petra as an Israeli location,” Gammoh said. “We have to first study the motives behind the post and whether it is posted by the author [Precept Ministries co-CEO Kay Arthur] herself or not.”
While the promotional ad remains at Precept’s website, the outcry pushed Arthur to remove the poster ad on her Facebook page where she has nearly half a million fans.
“It is not the first time that this has been done,” Raed Omari, an Amman-based journalist and political commentator, said .
Omari said that private companies, not the Israeli government, associate Petra with Israel because the ancient city is the “main tourism attraction in the region.”
But Omari said Israel has previously tried to add more weight to its local tourism industry when it insisted on its claim that a famous baptism site – said to have been the site of Jesus’s baptism in the Bible – was within its borders and not in Jordan.
In July, UNESCO weighed in on the rivalry when it designated Jordan’s baptismal area on the eastern bank of the Jordan River as a World Heritage site.