Israelis Visit Kever in Egypt


egypt-synagogueHundreds of Israelis went to Egypt on Sunday for an annual pilgrimage to the kever of a 19th-century tzaddik in the Nile Delta. Last year, Egypt denied the pilgrims entry because the yahrzeit fell during Israel’s offensive on Gaza and there were concerns about their security and public protests.

In past years, Egypt limited the number of pilgrims visiting the kever of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira near the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. But Israeli newspapers reported that President Hosni Mubarak accepted a request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he visited Egypt last week to allow unlimited numbers.

“There are more coming in the next few days, hundreds, probably thousands,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Cairo airport officials say about 290 Israelis arrived on Sunday and police imposed tight security at the airport and on the main highway to Alexandria, where they will spend few days before the commemoration of the yahrtzieit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rav Abuchatzeira, who was a son to a chief rabbi of Morocco, was revered by some Jews as a mekubal. The rov was making his way from his native Morocco to Eretz Yisroel in 1879 when he fell ill and died in the Egyptian city of Damanhour near Alexandria.

Israeli Consul General in Alexandria Hassan Ka’abia said at least 500-600 Israelis have applied for visas to come. He said others are coming from Europe, especially France.

Since Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, Jewish devotees, mostly of Moroccan origin, have been flocking to the site for a ceremony at his tomb. But Egypt has limited the numbers of pilgrims. In 2001, a Court in Alexandria ruled to ban the ceremony after complaints by opposing groups.

{Yair Israel/Ynet}