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Rabbi's Memorial in Egypt Called Off Due to Jihadist Threats

Arab and Islamic threats for the first time led to the cancellation of a pilgrimage and memorial at the tomb of a famed Jewish sage in Egypt.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 1/15/2009, 11:05 PM

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Arab and Islamic threats for the first time led to the cancellation of a pilgrimage and memorial at the tomb of a
Israelis traveling into Egypt at this time, and specifically to the traditional gathering at the rabbi's tomb, would be in grave danger.
famed Jewish sage in Egypt. In the past, the annual event marking anniversary of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeria's passing drew many hundreds of Jews from Israel and the Diaspora.

The trip to the rabbi's burial site, originally scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, was called off in response to a severe security alert. The National Security Council of the Prime Minister's Office issued a high-priority warning that Israelis traveling into Egypt at this time, and specifically to the traditional gathering at the rabbi's tomb, would be in grave danger of terrorist attack. One of the organizers of the memorial said that to hold the event in Egypt, as in the past, would have been unjustified under current circumstances.

In addition to the ongoing threats by jihadist groups worldwide to strike Jews and Jewish assets wherever it is possible to do so, the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira (also called "Abir Yaakov", after his most famous book) became the focus of Egyptian anti-Israel efforts in recent weeks. A coalition of Egyptian political opposition parties calling itself "You Will Not Pass Through My Land" came together to prevent the memorial at the tomb in the village of Demitouh, near Alexandria.


Recent Hamas demonstration in Morocco. [Blue Eye]

The coalition created unlikely allies, from the far-left Al-Tagamu party to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, who petitioned the Egyptian government to forbid the event. An article in Al-Masri Al-Youm quoted the coalition's leader, Gamal Mounib, as saying he holds the Egyptian government responsible for any pilgrims reaching the shrine this year.

The Moroccan-born "Abir Yaakov", who died in 1880 on the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, is the grandfather of the late Israeli Kabbalist Yisrael Abuhatzeira, better known as the "Baba Sali". The tomb of Rabbi Yaakov has become a place of pilgrimage for many hundreds of Jews in all the years since Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1978. The largest group regularly comes from Israel and is given heavy protection by local security services.

Only about 60 Jews currently live in Egypt, while the country's synagogues and the Israeli Embassy in Cairo are heavily guarded by Egyptian soldiers.

Many hundreds of Jews seeking to take part in the annual trip to Rabbi Abuhatzeira's grave in Demitouh held two alternate events marking the sage's passing. In a hall in Ramleh in the center of the country, a special prayer gathering was held under the auspices of Rabbi Yechiel Abuhatzeira, a descendant of the "Abir Yaakov". In addition, a second event in memory of Rabbi Abuhatzeira was held in a synagogue in the southern Israeli town of Rishon Lezion for the several hundred strong Israeli contingent.