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Defying ban, Egyptian Christians visit Jerusalem
Copts » Death of spiritual leader opens an opportunity to visit Jerusalem and other Israeli-controlled areas.

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The flow of Copts to the Holy Land could also bring a backlash back home in Egypt, where Copts make up about 10 percent of the 85 million population.

The 33-year-old peace between Israel and Egypt has never been warm. The few Egyptians who do make the journey to Israel are often viewed with suspicion back home. Already, one newspaper article in a pro-government newspaper has reported on the visits to Jerusalem in what the pilgrims felt were dark undertones.

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Few expect violence against Copts in Egypt to rise because of these visits. But Copts said they feared their visit would be used as propaganda by hard-line Islamists or others trying to portray them as disloyal.

"They want to show that the Copts aren’t nationalists," al-Urashalimi said. "We hope God will enlighten those minds, those people who say this is the root of treason, because we are Egyptian nationalists who have sacrificed many things for our homeland."

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