Friday, January 02, 2015

Alexandria Court Bans Annual Jewish Pilgrimage to Holy Rabbi’s Tomb 

The Supreme Court of Alexandria has 'permanently' banned the three-day festival and celebration of the life of Rabbi Ya'akov Abuhatzeira, held on the anniversary of death.

The yearly event includes a worldwide Jewish pilgrimage to the tomb of the Moroccan Torah sage who set out from his home for Israel in 1879.

The rabbi was known for his skills in kabbalah and other ancient knowledge. He fell ill while passing through the Nile Delta region of Buheira and died in the small city of Damtu.

Since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Jews have flocked to the tomb annually to pay their respects and celebrate the life of the Torah sage.

The celebration and pilgrimage were canceled for the first time since then in 2012, when the post-revolutionary government deemed the atmosphere to be unsafe to Jewish pilgrimage.

At that time, groups from across the political spectrum announced a plan to form human shields to prevent "Zionist" visitors from visiting the tomb on the anniversary of the rabbi's death.

The tomb is registered with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities as a Jewish Heritage Site. Among those protesting was the Muslim Brotherhood – which was leading the way towards the presidency – as well as the Freedom and Justice Party, Nasserist Trend and the Mohamed ElBaradei campaign.

This year it is not the Cairo government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who is issuing the edict, but rather the provincial court.

The court also called on the government to reverse the 2001 recognition of the festival as an event listed by state tourism officials and to remove it from the list of recognized shrines.

A request by the Israeli government for permission to transfer the remains of the rabbi to a grave in the State of Israel was denied because Islam forbids exhumation.

The judge in the case cited unspecified "moral offenses" as the reason for the ban and for stripping the site of its status, Al Arabiya reported.

Nevertheless, a government official who requested anonymity told the Cairo-based Al Ahram newspaper earlier this week that the court has no jurisdiction over recognition of sites as shrines. He added that Egypt's government will appeal the move if necessary.

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