Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mubarak approves pilgrimage to Rabbi's shrine

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday acceded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to allow hundreds of Jewish pilgrims to visit the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira near Alexandria at the end of next week, Haaretz reports.(With thanks: Lily)

Citing security concerns, Egyptian authorities had initially refused to allow a traditional hilula, or remembrance ceremony held on the anniversary of a revered rabbi's death, to take place at the tomb.

In 1879, Abuhatzeira, an elderly and well-respected rabbi, made his way from his native Morocco to the Land of Israel via Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. While passing through the Egyptian city of Damanhour, he grew ill and died.

Every year on the 19th of Tevet (the date of his death according to the Hebrew calendar) a hilula ceremony is held at his tomb, often attended by hundreds of devotees. But last year, the anniversary fell immediately after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and Egyptian authorities denied Israeli worshippers entry, saying they could not ensure their safety.

In recent weeks, Israeli defense officials have asked their Egyptian counterparts to ensure the pilgrims were allowed entry. Prior to Netanyahu's trip to Egypt, Shas chairman Eli Yishai asked him to speak with Mubarak about this issue.

An Israeli diplomat said Mubarak personally approved Netanyahu's request and instructed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to take measures to ensure the worshippers' safety.

Read article in full

'Thousands of pilgrims may come' - Canadian Press

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