Egypt cancels annual pilgrimage to rabbi's grave

Trek by devout Israelis to tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira in the Nile Delta called off by Egypt's military authorities amid instability in country; last year, signs reading "Death to Jews" greeted pilgrims.

By
January 11, 2012 19:14
1 minute read.
Pilgrims at grave of Rabbi Abuhatzeira in Egypt

abir yaakov grave Abuhatzeira egypt 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Egypt has canceled the annual pilgrimage from Israel to the tomb of the Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira in the Nile Delta because of the country's current instability, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on its website Wednesday.

According to the report, local authorities in the governorate where the shrine is located advised the military authorities to cancel the pilgrimage, scheduled for later this week to mark the anniversary of his the rabbi's death (yahrzeit).

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Abuhatzeira, also known as the Abir Yaakov, was a 19th century rabbi and mystic who lived in Morocco, and died near Alexandria on a trip to the Land of Israel toward the end of the 19th century. He is buried some 150 kilometers north of Cairo.

Abuhatzeira was the grandfather of the Baba Sali, the noted kabalist who died in 1984 and is buried in Netivot.

Pilgrimages from Israel to the site in Egypt began after the 1979–peace treaty with Israel, but in recent years has been a source of controversy.

Following the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, the ceremony was banned by Egyptian courts in 2001 and 2004. Again in 2008, various Egyptian parliamentarians and activists lobbied the government to prevent the pilgrimages, saying the visitors behaved in a "provocative" manner.

 In 2009, just after Operation Cast Lead, the Egyptian authorities again barred the pilgrimage altogether.

The following year, after the pilgrimage was renewed, the Egyptian authorities arrested 25 Muslim extremists suspected of planning to attack Israelis attending the event. The plans were foiled by Egyptian security officials.  That year the Egyptians limited the visas for those going to the grave to some 500, considerably less than the thousands granted in previous years.

And last year, signs reading  "Death to the Jews" greeted the 550 Israelis who made the trek. The pilgrimage was accompanied by a campaign by opposition parties against allowing "Zionists" into the country.

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