a savoir


Mazarita (11Mo)

Chatby 2 (10Mo)

Chatby 3 (10Mo)

Rav Abou Hassira

«Tombeau du Rav Abou Hassira»


The Cemeteries

Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they sent before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken account in a clear Book.

(The Holy Qu’ran, Surat 36 Ya –Seen, Verse 12)


Image© Digital Globe & © Google Earth

There are three Jewish cemeteries in Alexandria with a resident guard. The surrounding walls prevent squatting, but not rubbish being tossed over the tombs by neighbours or passers-by. All three are overgrown and require landscaping, followed by regular maintenance, which is beyond the strength of the ageing members of the Community who are reluctant to allocate the necessary funds.

Walking around is difficult and even dangerous as the wild bushes and high grass could conceal snakes or scorpions.

Some tombs require consolidation whilst others have collapsed.

One can find attached a link to a sketched plan of the 3 cemeteries, with references allowing readers to position plots on the satellite photos and the “.ppt” picture presentation.

All cemeteries are in the midst of a city which is exploding demographically. The two most recent cemeteries in Chatby are in the “Quartier des Cimetières” alongside Muslim, Coptic and Catholic cemeteries and therefore, relatively speaking, protected from property developers. Unacceptable pressure was however brought upon the Community regarding the oldest cemetery in Mazarita where a developer feared that a view over tombs would jeopardise the sale of flats in surrounding high-rise buildings. The Community was forced, under pressure from the Alexandria Governorate, to plant trees inside, failing that the cemetery would have been razed and the remains relocated. The precedent of the Tanta cemetery, of which only a plaque over a mass grave survives, springs to mind.


Image© Digital Globe & © Google Earth

The inability of the Community to protest from a position of strength has led to the mass plantation of trees, which will inevitably damage the tombs as they grow and lead to an transformation of the site’s object.

On the other hand, the Governorate has renovated the external side of the wall as part of the overall city embellishment plan.

We should note that the Egyptian Government, in line with Islamic principles, respects the dead and has responded to outside interventions regarding a ring road that straddles the Bassatine cemetery in Cairo.

The Alexandria Community also assumes responsibility for the maintenance of the tomb of Rav Abou Hassira (dec 1880) near Damanhour. An annual pilgrimage gathers Moroccan Jews mainly from France, Morocco and Israel. This pilgrimage, in which Egyptian Jews used to take part, creates tensions, which could lead to irrational reactions affecting the entire heritage; hence the necessity of an external and objective management. See extract from “Al Ahram”

The Bassatine cemetery in Cairo has been plundered. As one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world (9th century), it was located in the desert and therefore initially not protected by a restraining wall. However, the sprawling city has inevitably surrounded it, marble tombstones have been appropriated as building materials since 1967 and squatters have settled inside.

The Community, and particularly Mrs Weinstein, managed to get the squatters legally evicted. She also raised funds, mainly from the World Sephardi Federation in Switzerland and the Hassoun Group in France, to build a surrounding wall 2 km. long, protecting 2/3 of the 260,000 m2 cemetery. Mrs Weinstein has also campaigned for the preservation of 300 tombs endangered by a ring road ; she has mapped the cemetery with the help of some American students and flowered it.

« In the catacomb of my mind Where the dead endure - a kingdom I conjure by love to rise » (Samuel Menashe)

The squatters are unfortunately still present where the cemetery is not protected, building on top of the tombs. It is also regrettable that permission must be obtained to visit the cemetery.

It would appear preferable for a Foundation to assume responsibility for the preservation, landscaping, maintenance and security of the cemeteries, as well as repairs to tombs at the request of the families. It would also be normal for the government to authorise transfers of remains abroad when requested by the families, in line with Jewish tradition.