Algeria bans Jews from pilgrimage to holy site. Not Israelis – Jews.
For the 12th straight year, Algerian authorities have banned Jews from visiting the grave of Rabbi Ephraim Alnaqua, a 14th century Jewish leader, philosopher and physician.
I found the background in this recent article in Raseef22, a liberal Arab publication.
Darb al-Yahoud, or the Jews’ Path, is one of the most prominent neighborhoods in the Algerian city of Tlemcen that lies on the border with Morocco. The name of the neighborhood is no coincidence; it reflects a history that was once the reality of the area, though one that is today ignored by most Algerians, who have collectively forgotten that one of the most renowned Jewish rabbis in the world is buried there.
Not far from Darb al-Yahoud, on the eastern front of Tlemcen, lies a Jewish synagogue, surrounded by a high wall that can only be crossed through a large metal gate. Inside the wall is a garden with trees bearing various fruit, peering over the height of the wall.
A family lives in the garden, tending to the property. “This is an Arab Muslim family, and the father guards the tomb and the mausoleum,” Shawi Boudaghn, the tour guide, tells Raseef22.
Near the synagogue, behind yet another metal gate bearing the Star of David, lies a graveyard. The graves are emblazoned in Hebrew lettering, with the names of the dead. There is a nearby well, holding what many Jews consider to be holy water.
However, the most important relic is the mausoleum of the Rabbi Ephraim Alnaqua, considered one of the most prominent rabbis in Jewish history. Entry to the mausoleum is forbidden without prior permission granted by the governor (wali) of Tlemcen.
After the independence of Algeria, Jews were forbidden from pilgrimage to most of the holy sites in North Africa. In 2003, under the rule of current President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a plan was set, in collaboration between France and Algeria, to reopen the Jewish synagogues and burial sites in Algeria.
In 2006, the Algerian parliament passed a law guaranteeing freedom of religion, which led to the authorization of an official Jewish association in Algeria.
Moreover, in 2005, in response to a request from France, the Algerian authorities permitted the relaunching of the pilgrimage season for Jewish delegations from Europe. Jewish delegations began pouring in to visit the various historical and religious sites, and to perform the pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Ephraim Alnaqua.
Those would mark the last of the publicized pilgrimages, as Algeria once again suspended them during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2006 [sic]. In the meantime, the locals in Tlemcen had not taken well to the initial decision to allow Jewish visitors in. Instead, they organized large marches in protest, and threatened to burn the remaining Jewish properties in the city.
The veto of Jew-hating Islamists continues:
In 2014, Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Eissa declared his intent to reopen the closed Jewish synagogues. Against the outcry by Salafis, who considered this an act of provocation, he affirmed that the Algerian constitution guarantees the freedom of belief, and that the authorities would provide security protection to these areas. He later backtracked, stating that there was no clear timeline for reopening the synagogues, and claiming that the Jewish representatives themselves were not enthusiastic about the reopening, as they feared potential tensions.
Israel has nothing to do with this. It is naked, explicit anti-semitism. And the lack of pushback from the Arab community shows (as if we need more proof) that Arab antisemitism is endemic and condoned.
Whenever Arabs claim they have nothing against Jews, ask them what they are doing about Algeria.