Make a difference
Sign up for news, updates and events

Egypt says annual Israeli pilgrimage to Jewish tomb in Nile Delta ‘impossible’ this year



Egypt says annual Israeli pilgrimage to Jewish tomb in Nile Delta ‘impossible’ this year

By Associated Press, Published: January 10 | Updated: Wednesday, January 11, 4:06 AM

CAIRO — Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had told Israel that it would not be “appropriate” for Israeli pilgrims to make an annual visit to the tomb of a 19th-century Jewish holy man in the Nile Delta, as activists mobilized to block the pilgrimage route.

Ceremonies at the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hatzira have triggered yearly political sparring in Egypt throughout most of the last decade, with Islamists, nationalists, and others claiming that the government by allowing the pilgrimage is pursuing an unpopular policy of normalization with the country’s former enemy.

Egypt notified Israel two months ago that it would be “impossible to hold the annual ceremony because of the political and security situation in the country,” the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

An Islamist politician involved in organizing protests against the march meanwhile said that visiting Abu Hatzira’s gravesite in the village of Daymouta, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of Cairo would be a “suicide mission” for Israelis, because of popular opposition to their presence in Egypt.

“Normalization (of relations) with Israel is forced on the people, and the visits too come against the will of the people and despite popular rejection,” said Gamal Heshmat of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best organized political group.

Heshmat said that activists planned to stage sit-ins and other protests to block the route as soon as they hear the pilgrims are on their way. Egypt’s daily Al-Ahram newspaper reported Tuesday that 31 parties and groups had joined this year’s campaign.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, denounced the attempts to block the pilgrimage. In a Tuesday statement, the center’s Abraham Cooper accused the Brotherhood of trying to “curb religious freedom of Jews.”

“In their worldview, there is no respect for the traditions for Jews, dead or alive,” he said.

A son to a chief rabbi of Morocco, Abu Hatzira was revered by some Jews as a mystic renowned for his piety and for performing miracles. The elderly rabbi was making his way from his native Morocco to the Holy Land in 1879 when he fell ill and died in the Egyptian city of Damanhour near Alexandria.

According to tradition, his followers tried to move his tomb three times, and three times heavy storms prevented them.

After Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, Jewish devotees — mostly of Moroccan origin — have traveled annually to the site. But Egypt has limited the numbers of pilgrims.

In 2001 and 2004, two court orders banned the ceremony after opponents filed legal challenges.

Since then, both Delta residents and activist groups have denounced the ceremony. The residents complain of harassment by security forces deployed to protect the pilgrims. Activists oppose the normalization of relations with a country that Egypt fought in four wars between 1948 and 1973, and also see the defiance of the court order as part of the Mubarak regime’s general trampling of the rule of law.

In 2009, Egypt officially denied the pilgrims entry because the anniversary fell while Israel was conducing an offensive in Gaza.

A year later, the Israeli press reported that Mubarak accepted a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lift the limits on the number of pilgrims.

The tomb is a vestige of Egypt’s once-prosperous Jewish community, which at the time of the first war with Israel in 1948 numbered about 80,000 people.

But the Arab-Israeli wars, and the resentment and expulsions that they engendered, have reduced the number of Egypt’s Jews to about 60 individuals, according to the Israeli embassy.

JS WRAPPER: Hide No Charge

Wrapper: No Charge

Chicago Premiere Wrapper

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center headed by Rabbi Hier

Mainichi Shimbun

SWC Protests Abuse of Argentine National Library as a Platform for Hate

Wiesenthal Center Rejects State Department Letter on the Exclusion of Israel from US-Sponsored Global Counterterrorism Forum

Simon Wiesenthal Center PCUSA Boycott Vote Helps No One in Middle East; Spate of Anti-Israel Initiatives Harm Interfaith Relations

SWC Mourns Death of Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir

Egypt says annual Israeli pilgrimage to Jewish tomb in Nile Delta ‘impossible’ this year

Liston to the SWC's Interfaith Director Discuss Wagner's Ring of Anti-Semitism on NY's WXQR Radio

The “Occupy Movement” Must Repudiate the Anti-Semites in Their Ranks By Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

Wiesenthal Center: On Seventieth Anniversary of Nazi Invasion, “Lithuanian Activist Front” Should Be Denounced, Not Glorified

Right of Reply: A threat to Holocaust memory

One-year later: Religious Leaders Convene in Mumbai in solidarity and Remembrance of Terrorist Attack Victims

M&T US MAIL instructions

M&T USMAIL

Generations Against Genocide 2009 Fall Cocktail Party

Who would you vote for in Iran's Presidential election?

Blog Wrapper