A relative of the first Arab to be named Righteous Among the Nations has declined to accept the honour on his behalf.
The award was bestowed posthumously by Yad Vashem on Mohamed Helmy, an Egyptian-German doctor, for his role in saving a Jewish family during the Holocaust.
Since recipients of the award are often no longer alive, Yad Vashem usually seeks out family members to whom the award can be given, but said they had been unable to find any living relatives of Mr Helmy.
But with the help of genealogists, an AP journalist tracked down members of Mr Helmy’s family in Cairo.
Mervat Hassan, the wife of Mr Helmy’s great nephew, said that they would not be accepting the award, citing hostile relations between Egypt and Israel. She told the journalist: “If any other country offered to honour Helmy, we would have been happy with it.”
She continued: “Helmy was not picking a certain nationality, race or religion to help. He treated patients regardless of who they were … I respect Judaism as a religion and I respect Jews. Islam recognises Judaism as a heavenly religion.”
Yad Vashem has said it will continue to look for other relatives of Helmy in order to hand over the honour, including some heirs who appeared in his will.
Mr Helmy hid 21-year-old Anna Boros and members of her family in a cabin on the outskirts of Berlin when the Germans started to deport Jews in 1941. He also provided them with medical care. The four family members survived the war and immigrated to the US.
Ms Boros wrote after the war that Mr Helmy “did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity”.