Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Israelis at shrine in Egypt get mixed reception

This Jerusalem Post story about a group of Israelis visiting the tomb of a famous rabbi at Nekraha in Egypt says more about the reactions of Arab residents and onlookers than about the pilgrims themselves. (With thanks: Albert)

The pilgrims, some singing and clapping, made the two-hour drive from Cairo to see the tomb of Yaakov Abuhatzeira, a Moroccan rabbi who earned a reputation for healing people and died in 1880. His grandson, called "Baba Sali," is better known and his tomb in Netivot is a popular pilgrimage site.

Residents gawked from their windows and balconies as the big coaches slowly wound their way along the muddy road to the shrine. (..)

"I don't want to see them here," tire-repairman Mohammed Sharqawi said of the Israelis. "I watch television and I see what is happening in Palestine."

But, two stores along the main road, Ali Mohammed Tanani said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one thing, the pilgrims were another.

"We have our sacred places. If they think it's a sacred place, they have the right to visit. They are our guests," said Tanani, who runs a small grocery shop.

Egypt guards the stone tomb, which stands in a small chamber, and allows visitors only for the January anniversary of Abuhatzeira's death. The pilgrims do not walk around Nekraha; they go to the shrine and leave.

But in 2003 a small group of pilgrims stopped at Tanani's shop and, using their interpreter, bought fizzy drinks and chocolates. "They were polite," Tanani recalled. The tomb is a vestige of Egypt's once-prosperous Jewish community. Jews in Egypt go back to the time before Moses. And by the founding of Israel in 1948, they numbered about 80,000 people. But wars, and the resentment and expulsions that they engendered, have reduced Egypt's Jewish community to about 60 people, living in Alexandria and Cairo, according to the Israeli embassy.

Some residents of Nekraha believe that Abuhatzeira's shrine is not even the tomb of a Jew.

"I think the grave is that of a Muslim from Morocco called Mohammed," said shopkeeper Leila Khalil, adding that she had read that in Al-Osboa, a weekly newspaper known for stridently nationalistic views.

Khalil said President Hosni Mubarak was making a mistake by allowing the Israelis to come to the shrine. And in past years, such as 2001 when the Palestinian intifada was raging, the government has bowed to popular pressure and refused visas to Israeli pilgrims.

Khalil said she did not like Israelis visiting her town. Asked why, she replied: "Do the Jews like Arabs and Muslims?"

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

Iranian Jews reject urgent attempts to leave:

Anonymous said...

"Jews in Egypt go back to the time before Moses."

Why do they mix religious mythology with facts? I guess it is also true that God appeared to Moses on some hill and handed him the tablets but this God couldn't show up to save 6 million of innocent people slaughtered in Europe like sheep.

The other day I saw a documentary on National Geographic on the alleged exodus of Jews from Egypt, scientists said that they found no proof of such thing, meaning it is mythology.

Keep mythology inside the synagogue/church/mosque or whatever your worship place is.