Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Egyptians unhappy with Jewish pilgrims

From Al Ahram, Sunday:
Cairo International Airport announced on Sunday it was implementing emergency measures as hundreds of Israelis arrive to mark the annual moulid of Abu Hasira.

A 19th-century Moroccan Jewish rabbi, Abu Hasira's mausoleum is located in the village of Damatiuh, outside the delta city of Damanhour, where he died while travelling to Jerusalem in the 1880s.

Three flights from Tel Aviv arrived in Cairo today carrying 550 Israeli passengers. They were transferred to Abu Hasira's tomb by a secure convey. More Jewish pilgrims are expected to attend the eight day festival.

The moulid and the presence of Israelis have provoked indignation and legal action. Residents of the area are opposed to Israelis celebrating in their midst with some going as far as stating that the tomb should be transferred to Israel.
From Al Masry al-Youm:
Dozens of largely Israeli Jewish pilgrims on Sunday arrived in Egypt to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Abu Hasira, a 19th-century Jewish Rabbi whose mausoleum is located in the village of Damtu in the Nile Delta.

Nearly 60 Jewish pilgrims have arrived and authorities anticipate an additional 280 tourists will arrive on Monday.

Security authorities have tightened measures around the mausoleum. Places of business were closed for the day and some 3000 security officials formed a cordon around the area, home to roughly 30,000 Egyptians.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Change leaders announced the group will hold a seminar at the Gabha Party headquarters in Damanhour to protest the festival. A number of other opposition movements also plan to stage a protest vigil on Thursday in front of Damanhour's municipal court.

The government’s approval of the festival has fomented popular reproach, particularly after the Supreme Administrative Court recently upheld a 2001 lower court decision to ban the annual event.
From The Media Line:
Hebrew signs reading "death to the Jews" greeted Israeli pilgrims who came to the Egyptian Nile Delta village of Damtu to commemorate the annual anniversary of death of a 19th-century rabbi.

Some 550 Israelis arrived Monday at the mausoleum of Rabbi Yaakov Abu-Hasira, a revered Moroccan rabbi, who died in Egypt in 1880 en route to the land of Israel. But 3,000 Egyptian security personnel cordoned the village, closing down local businesses for the day.

Last year, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak allowed Israeli pilgrims to enter Egypt, responding to a personal request by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Pilgrims had been refused entry the previous year, when the anniversary fell immediately after Israel's Cast Lead offensive on the Gaza Strip, and Egyptian security officials agued they couldn’t ensure the safety of Israelis in the country.

But Egyptian opposition parties said the event shouldn’t pass quietly this year either. The local chapter of the Nasserist Party launched a campaign titled "You shall not pass on my land," calling on the government to disallow the presence of "Zionists" in Egypt.

"I welcome Jews from all parts of the world in my home and I will be their servant," Gamal Munib, secretary-general of the Nasserists and coordinator of the campaign, told The Media Line. "But I refuse to welcome Zionists, who killed Egyptian prisoners of war and are killing my brothers in Palestine."

Munib said his party convened an anti-Zionist meeting Monday night, and was organizing a protest vigil on Thursday across from Damanhour's municipal court with the participation of "all national forces.”

The burial site wasn’t identified as Jewish until 1996, when it began being developed, Munib added. The Nasserist Party petitioned the court to declare the area isn’t a historic site, a move that would ban the annual Jewish festivities he said included the drinking of alcohol.
I couldn't find any use of the site in the early part of the century, but I did find a mention in Google News Archive search results in a paywalled Jerusalem Post article from 1989 that has a fragment that says "drove 100 km. to recite psalms at the grave site of Ya'acov Abu Hatzeira," so it was known as a place of pilgrimage from at least as early as then.

It is to Egypt's credit that the government allows these pilgrims to come, and protects them, almost every year.

Some history here.