A roots trip to Cairo and Alexandria planned by dozens of Israelis and Jews of Egyptian descent was called off Thursday upon order of Egypt's security services.
"We are sorry, but the situation is sensitive, and under the current circumstances we cannot accommodate you," an Egyptian official told Levana Zamir of Tel Aviv, head of the Israel- Egypt Friendship Association, who initiated the trip.
The dozens of participants, who planned to travel along with their children and grandchildren, were shocked by the cancellation.
The Marriott Hotel in Cairo was the first to announce that "we cannot accommodate the Israeli and Jewish delegation, and we are cancelling the reservations."
Two hours later, the Egyptian travel agent stated that "in spite of our urgent appeals, we were unsuccessful in finding any hotel in Cairo which would agree to host the delegation from Israel, and we recommend that you postpone your plans to visit Egypt."
The affair began three months ago, when Zamir came up with the idea to hold a roots trip for people of Egyptian descent. She prepared an itinerary and asked Israeli Ambassador to Cairo Shalom Cohen and Prof. Gabi Rosenbaum, director of the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo, to speak before the delegation members.
According to Egyptian procedures, internal security officials were given the itinerary, the lectures and the names of the lecturers, which also included a number of Jewish academicians who planned to join the roots trip.
'A cover-up for their plans'The trip's participants purchased plane tickets from El Al, paid for a hotel and planned to leave Israel on the coming Sunday. On Wednesday night, however, they were hit with a surprise: A well-known Egyptian television presenter, Amr Adib, dedicated an extensive report to the planned trip, accusing the delegation members of "coming to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary in Egypt of all places."
He added that "the roots trip is only a cover-up for their plans to demand that their property in Cairo and Alexandria be returned to them."
According to Adib, the trip's participants planned to file dozens of legal claims for the return of the houses, factories and stores which they had owned in the past and were nationalized.
"Why should we bring in Jews born in Egypt who preferred to flee to Israel, which has fought us in blood-soaked wars," the broadcaster asked, accusing the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the Israeli Academic Center of "sponsoring a conspiracy against Egypt."
Moreover, Adib took advantage of the report in order to reveal the name of the hotel which was to accommodate the Israeli delegation. He also claimed that the delegation members planned to hold a press conference in Cairo and called on the Egyptian Foreign Ministry "to take the necessary steps."
"I was shocked by these expressions of hatred and what followed, despite the fact that I have been active for so many years in distributing the Egyptian culture and advancing the friendship between the countries," Levana Zamir said Thursday.
"Our plan was perfectly innocent: To take tours of Cairo and Alexandria and show our childhood places to our children and grandchildren," she added.
The travel agency in Cairo made it clear to Zamir that "the trip is being cancelled for security reasons following the reports on Egyptian media" and promised to return the payments already made.