Chief Rabbi wants Egypt to allow pilgrimage to rabbi's gravesite

Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef asks ambassador to Egypt to pressure Cairo to allow visits to the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira.

Tzvi Lev ,

Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef with Ambassador Amira Oron
Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef with Ambassador Amira Oron
Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef asked incoming Ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron to pressure Cairo to allow visits to the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira to resume.

The request came during a meeting the veteran diplomat held with the rabbi in preparation for taking up the post of Israel's envoy to Egypt. Rabbi Yosef told Oron that his father Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef had once visited the tomb in the Egyptian city of Damahour and saw it as important for Jews to be allowed to continue visiting the site.

Oron promised to act on the matter and said that she was receiving an attentive ear from the Egyptian authorities regarding the issue.

Damanhour has been an important pilgrimage site for North African Jews for over a century. Rabbi Ya'akov Abuhatzeira was one of a long line of rabbis from the famous Abuhatzeira rabbinical family, most of whom immigrated to Israel in the 1950s. Rabbi Abuhatzeira was the grandfather of the Baba Sali, famed as a miracle worker, and had a reputation as a miracle worker himself.

Until 2012, thousands of Jews from Israel would travel to Damanhour annually to commemorate the life of Rabbi Abuhatzeira. The Egyptian government stopped the visits in 2012, claiming that the sight of so many Jews was “offensive to Egyptians.”

The Chief Rabbi also asked Oron to work to preserve Jewish-owned property in Egypt that was abandoned after the Jewish community fled in 1948. The country was home to around 80,000 Jews in 1948, but expelled most of them and seized their property following the defeat of Arab armies by the nascent State of Israel in 1948.