Saturday, June 26, 2010

Algerians turn away Jewish pilgrims from tomb

The Algerian authorities have turned down a request from French Jewish groups to visit the 13th century tomb of Rav Ephraim El -Kawa in Tlemcen, north west Algeria, the Algerian newspaper Al-khabar reports. Via JSS blog (With thanks: Andrew)

These same groups, led by Tlemcen native Andre Charbit, had wanted to repeat their 2005 pilgrimage. Charbit had then headed a group of 220 pilgrims, the largest group of Jews to visit Algeria since independence. They flew to Tlemcen aboard a special Air Algerie flight. The visit created widespread media interest.

Sources say that public opinion and the political class rejected the idea following the free Gaza flotilla incident, in which Algerian 'activists' took part.

Anti-Jewish Algerians believe that these types of visits on the human and tourist level may hide attempts to drag Algeria towards normalisation with Israel - a prospect Algeria officially refuses to countenance.

Algerian officials believe that the 2011 festival celebrating 'Tlemcen, capital of Islamic culture' is incompatible with a visit from a group of Jews who consider the site the second most holy in North Africa after the Ghriba synagogue in Djerba (Tunisia).

Read blog post in full (French)

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