Cairo: Egyptian activists are pushing for the cancellation of an annual Jewish festival in the Delta.

They are launching a nationwide campaign to collect a million signatures to compel the Egyptian government to stop the festival celebrating the birthday of Abu Hasira, a 19th century Moroccan Jewish "holy man". Thousands of Israelis flock to Egypt every year to attend the controversial festival in late December.

"Farmers are under pressure from [local] brokers to sell their land in the vicinity of the Abu Hasira tomb for Jewish investors who wish to set up hotels there," said MP Zakaria Al Janayni, one of the campaigners against the festival. "Those brokers offer very high prices, but their offers have so far been turned down," he added.

He said he would make an urgent request to the government to cancel the festival.

In 2004 an Egyptian court ruled against holding the festival and revoked a decision by the Ministry of Culture that listed the Abu Hasira tomb in the Delta village of Demito, Some 120 kilometers north of Cairo, as an antiquity area.

The government has yet to comply with the ruling.

Locals complain that the Jewish revellers engage in boisterous rituals that hurt their feelings.

"No-one knew about the so-called tomb of Abu Hasira until 1979 when Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty," said Ahmad Farhat, a campaigner against the festival.

Security measures

"Since then, Jews have been coming to the village of Demito every year to celebrate the festival by dancing and wearing provocative clothes."

"Their celebrations offend the locals, who also suffer from the tight security measures maintained during the festival," he told Gulf News.

There has been no official word on the campaign.