A Magical Year

The Jewish community in the UAE to be a beacon of hope for the world

By Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, Alex Peterfreund and Thierry Braha

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The Jewish Council of the Emirates - Shaarei Mizrah celebrating Hannukah in 2020 with their Emirati friends
The Jewish Council of the Emirates - Shaarei Mizrah celebrating Hannukah in 2020 with their Emirati friends

Published: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 11:59 AM

Last updated: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 12:00 PM

We are living in unprecedented times. The year 2020 was historic in many ways. We were plagued with a global pandemic but also received the blessing of the Abraham Accords. While Israel made peace years ago with its neighbors in Egypt and Jordan, what we are seeing here in the relationship between the UAE and Israel is a truly warm peace and one that should be a model for other countries to follow.

Muslims and Jews have lived side-by-side in the UAE for many years. The Jewish Council of the Emirates — Shaarei Mizrah (JCE-SM), representing the Jewish Community in the UAE, existed for a few years before the Accords, however, we became recognised and licensed as an official Jewish Community of Faith, among many communities of Faiths that live in the UAE, after that auspicious day. For the first time in hundreds of years, a new Jewish community was established in an Arab country. That in itself is a major event in contemporary history. What followed is indeed momentous and historic.

Over the past years, our Muslim friends have joined us for Shabbat and holiday meals and we have joined them for their holiday meals. While we broke bread together, we also broke barriers and learned about each other’s cultures. This is exactly what our leaders envisioned when they signed the Accords on the White House lawn in September 2020. On the business front, many MoU’s were signed between the UAE and Israel which brought many Israeli business leaders, academics and heads of social organisations to the UAE. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have visited the UAE so far and many are starting their own businesses here. Many social organisations comprised of Israelis and Emiratis have been established specifically to meet, to get to know each other, to learn from each other and adapt to the new magical reality that now exists; the strong bonds that unite Emiratis and Israelis. We, as the Jewish community in the UAE, have risen to the challenge and the need, to welcome the many Israelis and Jews from around the world and provide them with places of worship, kosher food and social opportunities. Just recently, we hosted nearly 50 Emirati social media influencers and journalists for our holiday services and meals. Some of them have already visited Israel and shared about their experiences there and the similarities they observed between Muslims and Jews and Emiratis and Israelis.

As we look forward to the second year of this flourishing relationship, we are excited about the opportunities ahead to share more experiences with each other. The Abraham Accords are not just a government-to-government agreement or a way to promote more business between the two countries, but they were intended to bring our people together. In year two, we will further actualise that vision and continue to host each other for holiday meals, learn about each other’s religions and cultures. We will continue to celebrate one another and most importantly, together. We will see more Muslims learning Hebrew and more Jews learning Arabic. As the Jewish community of the UAE, we will continue to meet the growing and anticipated needs of our community as many Jews who visit recognise the beauty of the peaceful coexistence amongst residents of the UAE and Emiratis and will choose to live here. We as a Jewish community must see ourselves in the same light as a beacon of hope and a shining example of what the Abraham Accords stand for.

— Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie is the Senior Rabbi of The Jewish Council of the Emirates - Shaarei Mizrah. Alex Peterfreund and Thierry Braha are co-Presidents of the community.

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