Jewish Pilgrimage Banned in Northern Egypt
The annual Jewish pilgrimage to rabbi Yaacov Abu Hatzira's tomb, due to start on January 10 in northern Egypt, has been banned by the municipality of Damanhur, Egyptian state-owned daily al-Gumhurriya said Monday.
The newspaper said this decision was prompted by an inquiry which found that the inhabitants resent the pilgrimage to the rabbi's mausoleum which, they say, Jews have turned into a "second Wailing Wall".
The paper said Damanhur had decided to transfer the mausoleum and the rabbi's remains to Israel, but gave no further details.
There was no early confirmation from the municipality that the pilgrimage had been cancelled.
A spokeswoman from the Israeli embassy in Cairo also said her diplomatic representation had not been officially notified of this decision by the Egyptian government.
"Some Israeli pilgrims are planning on coming and are still organizing their trip with private religious organizations", she added.
Thousands of French, Moroccan and Israeli Jews go on this pilgrimage each year, where they perform their rites and bless dried fruit and bottles of alcohol.
The Muslim inhabitants of the village where the mausoleum is situated protest against the consumption of alcohol - prohibited by Islam - during the pilgrimage, al-Gumhurriya reported.
In the Jewish faith, Yaacov Abu Hatzira was a famous rabbi from southern Morocco, who wrote talmudic commentary in the 19th century. Based in Damanhur, which was expanding rapidly at the time thanks to cotton trade, he became the head of the local Jewish community.
He died in 1881, and has since been revered for the miracles attributed to him. His real name was Elbaz, but he took on the name of Abu Hatzira (father of the carpet) when, having been denied access to a Palestine-bound ship by its captain, he was said to have reached the Promise Land on a flying carpet.
An Egyptian lawyer has been calling for the demolition of the mausoleum or its transfer to Israel for five years already, and the Egyptian press has launched several campaigns against the pilgrimage -- CAIRO (AFP)
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