Mubarak to Allow Jewish Pilgrims to Visit Famous Rabbi's Tomb

Citing security concerns, Egypt had initially refused to allow a hilula to take place at Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira's tomb.

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.

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 worshipers 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 worshipers' safety.

Abuhatzeira was the grandfather of Yisrael Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Sali, a revered rabbi and kabbalist whose tomb in Netivot is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Israel.