Egyptian prosecutors arrested 25 Muslim extremists suspected of forming a new group that planned to carry out terrorist attacks in the country, including at the burial place of a Jewish mystic, according to Egypt’s independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
One of the group’s targets was the grave of Rabbi Ya’acov Abuhatzeira, a 19th century rabbi and mystic who was the grandfather of the Baba Sali, Yisrael Abuhatzeira, himself a famous kabbalist, who was said to be a miracle worker. He died in 1984 and is buried in Netivot.
Ya’acov Abuhatzeira, also known as the Abir Ya’acov, was buried in Nekraha, located in the Nile Delta, at the end of the 19th century. The rabbi, who served a community in Morocco, died during a trip to Israel.
There is a yearly pilgrimage to his grave site on 19 Tevet, which was less than a month ago. Apparently, Muslim extremists had planned to attack Israelis visiting the site on the anniversary of Abuhatzeira’s death, but the plans were foiled by Egyptian security officials.
According to a member of the Abuhatzeira family who preferred to remain anonymous, only 500 pilgrims were allowed to visit the site this year, compared to several thousand who usually make the trek to the grave.
He speculated that the smaller number had something to do with the arrests of the 25 extremists.
Last year, during Operation Cast Lead, no pilgrims were allowed to visit.
He said that this year a last-minute permit was obtained from Egypt after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened on behalf of the Abuhatzeira family during a visit to Cairo.
Asked if visits to the grave would stop, the family member said that they would not.
“People on their way to do a mitzva are never hurt,” said the source, paraphrasing a talmudic saying. “Obviously, we will continue to take all the necessary security precautions, including coordination with both Egyptian and Israeli security officials.”
Menachem Gisaid, an aide to Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), helped rebuild the Abir Ya’akov’s grave site several years ago at the request of Rabbi David Abuhatzeira, one of several members of the Abuhatzeira clan who are believed to have supernatural powers.
The rabbi of Ramle, Rabbi Yechiel Abuhatzeira, organizes the annual trips to the site. Gisaid said that Egyptian officials have done their best to protect the site.
After many years during which the trip to the Abir Ya’acov was forbidden to Israelis, Egypt permitted the renewal of the tradition to make pilgrimages to the site starting in 1979, after the signing of the Camp David Accord, the unnamed family member said.
“But things became tense in 2000 with the outbreak of the second intifada. But what do you expect, Esau hates Jacob,” he added, citing the rabbinic teaching that gentiles have an ingrained hatred for Jews.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, son of Rabbi David Batzri, who heads the kabbalist educational institution Yeshivat Hashalom in Jerusalem’s Mekor Baruch neighborhood, said that “real Muslims respect Jewish holy places.
“Jews are the people of the book in the Muslim faith,” added Batzri. “They recognize the holiness of our sites. These people who tried to destroy the Abir Ya’acov’s burial place are not real Muslims.”
According to security officials quoted in the Egyptian paper, the Muslim terror group was also planning to attack US ships in the Suez Canal and ship weapons and explosives to Hamas in Gaza for use in their rockets.
The 25 Egyptians were arrested in November on charges of stockpiling weapons and explosives to be used in “attacks against targets inside Egypt,” a security official said. They were arrested in Mansoura, northeast of Cairo.
An official and a lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, provided details on the case against the group.
“They are accused of forming a new Islamic militant group based on the ideas of Sayyid Qutb,” the lawyer said, referring to the leading ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who was executed in 1966 and whose ideas provide much of the intellectual basis for groups like Hamas.
The report in Al-Masry Al-Youm
said some of the suspects received training in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.
Egyptian security forces have recently reported the arrests of members of several new terror groups looking to carry out attacks against Egyptian and foreign targets, including US and Israeli interests.