Egyptian Islamists and other activists say they have vowed to prevent Israelis from making an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of a 19th-century Jewish holy man in the Nile Delta.
Pilgrimage opponents have decided to stage protests on roads leading to the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira in the village of Daymouta, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of Cairo, said Gamal Heshmat of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group which is the country’s best organized political movement.
He said that the late December and early January pilgrimage would be a “suicide mission” for Israelis, because of popular opposition to their presence in Egypt.
“Normalization (of relations) with Israel is forced on the people, and the visits too come against the will of people and despite popular rejection,” said Heshmat, who recently won a seat in parliament in the country’s first elections following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian activists have rallied against the pilgrimage every year for most of the last decade. Egypt’s daily Al-Ahram newspaper reported Tuesday that 31 parties and groups had joined this year’s campaign.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, denounced the attempts to block the pilgrimage. In a Tuesday statement, the center’s Abraham Cooper accused the Brotherhood of trying to “curb religious freedom of Jews.”
“In their worldview, there is no respect for the traditions for Jews, dead or alive,” he said. […]
The tomb is a vestige of Egypt’s once-prosperous Jewish community, which at the time of the first war with Israel in 1948 numbered about 80,000 people.
But the Arab-Israeli wars, and the resentment and expulsions that they engendered, have reduced the number of Egypt’s Jews to about 60 individuals, according to the Israeli embassy.