Egyptian court cancels annual pilgrimage to rabbi’s grave

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An Egyptian court canceled an annual Jewish pilgrimage to the grave of a 19th-century Moroccan rabbi.

The Administrative Court in the coastal city of Alexandria on Monday banned the annual celebration at the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hasira, whose tomb is in Damanhour, in the Nile Delta, on the anniversary of his death. The court was responding to a lawsuit that said the festival violates local traditions, the Gulf News reported.

Hundreds of Israeli pilgrims annually visit the grave of Abu Hasira, who was on his way to the Holy Land when his ship sank. He survived and made his way to Egypt, where he died in 1880.

The court reportedly also revoked a 2001 decision by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture listing the tomb and its surroundings as heritage sites. It also ruled that the remains of the rabbi should not be transferred to Israel, an unnamed court source told the Egyptian news website Ahram. Israel made the request two years ago via the United Nations cultural arm, UNESCO.

Visits to the site have not been permitted since the 2011 ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.