Egypt

Pilgrims arrive at Delta village to commemorate 19th century Jewish rabbi

Dozens of largely Israeli Jewish pilgrims on Sunday arrived in Egypt to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Abu Hasira, a 19th-century Jewish Rabbi whose mausoleum is located in the village of Damtu in the Nile Delta.

Nearly 60 Jewish pilgrims have arrived and authorities anticipate an additional 280 tourists will arrive on Monday.

Security authorities have tightened measures around the mausoleum. Places of business were closed for the day and some 3000 security officials formed a cordon around the area, home to roughly 30,000 Egyptians.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Change leaders announced the group will hold a seminar at the Gabha Party headquarters in Damanhour to protest the festival. A number of other opposition movements also plan to stage a protest vigil on Thursday in front of Damanhour's municipal court.

The government’s approval of the festival has fomented popular reproach, particularly after the Supreme Administrative Court recently upheld a 2001 lower court decision to ban the annual event.

Israeli reports indicated last year that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed to a request on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow hundreds of Israelis to celebrate the festival.

Abu Hasira was born in Morocco and, according to Jewish lore, the ship that was escorting him to Palestine sank at sea. Abu Hasira held on to a straw mat which eventually landed him on Syrian shores. The rabbi, according to Jewish tradition, went from Syria to Palestine and then on to Egypt.

He died in the village of Damtu in Damanhour in 1880. Thousands of Jews every year come to celebrate the anniversary of his death.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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