Dubai: Jewish expat to drive from UAE to Israel, promote peace and innovation

The 9,000-km trip is the first step towards launching a regional accelerator programme for food and desert tech start-ups in the region



by

Anjana Sankar

Published: Thu 4 Aug 2022, 6:34 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Aug 2022, 6:35 PM

A Jewish expat in Dubai is embarking on a 20-day road trip from the UAE to Israel and back with pit stops in four Arab countries to promote peace and innovation.

Tech innovator Bruce Gurfein, 45, will start his journey from Burj Al Arab in Dubai on Sunday, August 7, and travel through Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine and Israel before returning to Dubai on August 26.

“I believe this is the first attempt of a cross-country trip between the UAE and Israel,” Gurfein, an American citizen living in Dubai, told Khaleej Times. "The aim is to build people-to-people relations, promote peace, and create awareness about the need for innovations in agro and food tech in a region fraught with food security challenges."

The 9,000-km trip is the first step towards launching a regional accelerator programme for food and desert tech start-ups in the region, said Gurfein, CEO of Connect, the tech arm of Al Nabooda Group.

Along the trip, he will be meeting investors, land owners, partners and innovators in agro and food tech in a bid to create a joint platform to promote a sustainable future for the region. “We will be recruiting 25 new companies from across these six countries into the accelerator programme,” he said.

The journey

The journey will start from Burj Al Arab at early morning on Sunday and Gurfein will be accompanied by his friend Joe Koen, another Dubai resident.

The duo will have their first pitstop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They will meet with their partners and also tour the Al Masmak Fortress and other cultural sites before heading to Jeddah the next day. They will wrap up the Saudi leg of the journey with a trip to Al Ula where they will visit farms and meet with tech partners.

“People can follow our trip on our social media platforms. The idea is to share the cultural experiences with others and help them understand the region. I want this initiative to help bring opportunities to start-ups and help grow sustainability industries of these economies,” he said.

'Abraham Accords made it possible'

Gurfein says the trip is a long-time dream come true for him. He has been planning it much before the UAE and Bahrain signed the historic Abraham Accords with Israel in September 2020. But it did not materialise because a road trip was a logistical nightmare due to the travel restrictions that existed between Israel and the Arab countries before the peace deal.

“It was impossible to drive a car with a UAE licence plate into Israel. Likewise, it did not make sense to drive from Saudi Arabia to Israel too.”

But when the UAE and Israel opened diplomatic relations with the signing of the peace deal, borders opened and things fell in place.

Gurfein who speaks 11 languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, says he is the best ambassador for peace because he has experienced the hospitality and friendship of the Arab people for many years.“Emiratis have always been a welcoming and open society."

"My journey is a celebration of all that bonds us,” said Gurfein.

Peace needs infrastructure

Gurfein says if peace has to sustain, countries need the right infrastructure.

“There is no quick fix for peace. It is nurtured as much by people-to-people relations and infrastructure. If you look at many of the wars and conflicts plaguing the region, food, water and sustainability are at the core of many of the wars and conflicts raging in the region,” said Gurfein.

Israel is a powerhouse in innovation in the field of food tech and sustainability. UAE is a world-class business and financial hub. Saudi Arabia has a vast and varied landscape. Gurfein says he is planning to bring these strengths together and also rope in other small countries in the region to create a common platform to share data and test their products and gain market access.

“The Accelerator programme, will give market access to start-ups. For instance, we will help Saudi companies to test their concepts in Israel and vice versa.”

Gurfein hopes the trip will bring together people and ideas that can help the region build long lasting peace and address core challenges of food shortages. Watch him extend an open invite to join him on this journey to 'bring nations together':

“If we come together, we can be the light for the rest of the world, he said.


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