Born out of global movement: The Abraham Accords

Rabbi Schneier
Rabbi Schneier

The ties encourage friendship between the Jews and Muslims



By Rabbi Marc Schneier

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 5:23 PM

Western media accounts over the past several weeks have conveyed a sense of befuddled amazement as to how quickly the signing of the Abrahamic Accords last August led to the implementation of 'a warm peace' between the UAE and Israel. Since the inception of direct flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE in November 2020, an estimated 50,000 Israelis have visited the UAE. The media reports have enthused over how the arriving Israelis have been cordially welcomed and shown every consideration by officials, hoteliers, merchants and everyday Emiratis; pointing to seemingly surreal scenes of Israelis holding festive outdoor gatherings around a large Chanukah menorah placed at the base of the Burj Khalifa.

As someone who has been active for nearly two decades in building Muslim-Jewish relations around the world, as well as strengthening ties between Israel and the nations of the Gulf, I am elated - but far from surprised - by the ongoing lovefest between Israelis and Emiratis I witnessed firsthand during a visit to Dubai in November. I was heartened that what I saw and experienced in Dubai mirrored on a grander scale what I have seen hundreds of times in Muslim-Jewish 'twinning' encounters I organised in cities across America, Europe and around the world. From the beginning, these encounters were marked by intellectual excitement, as participants on both sides realised the deep similarities in the rituals and customs of Islam and Judaism, two faiths characterised by strict monotheism. There was also a feeling of relief and growing mutual affection as participants connected directly with the 'other' on a human level.

The uplifting interaction that has played out in Dubai and Abu Dhabi represents something far larger than the opening of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel; historic though that step undoubtedly is. What is playing out before the eyes of an astonished world is the coming to fruition of a largely overlooked global Muslim-Jewish movement for friendship and trust, which I had the privilege to help launch back in 2005. Indeed, without the phenomenal growth of that movement, there would have been no Abrahamic Accords.

What we are witnessing is a re-weaving of ties between two long separated faith communities; the reuniting of a long-estranged family. I am convinced that the Abrahamic Accords, as the name suggests, grew directly out of a four-thousand-year-old mystical bond between our two faiths and peoples extending back to our common father Abraham/Ibrahim and the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

As natural and long-overdue as this reconciliation of two long-linked faith communities may be, the path to mutual embrace between Muslims and Jews has not been easy, due mainly to the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Given the deeply devout nature of Muslims in general and in the Gulf in particular, it was clear to me that to heal the breach between our faith communities, it would be necessary to bring Muslim religious leaders, as well as political ones, into the tent of mutual understanding. In the dialogues I held with prominent imams and scholars in Muslim countries. I always emphasised that the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is integral to our faith. For world Jewry, the existence of Israel is, first and foremost, a religious issue, rather than a political one.

I realised during those encounters that I was articulating an inconvenient truth that many of my esteemed Muslim colleagues did not want to hear. Yet fruitful dialogue demands truth-telling, so I persevered. That truth was eventually heard loud and clear, and the consequences of the shift in understanding of the Jewish connection to Israel by the religious and political leadership in the Gulf have been transformative; making possible historic movement toward peace and reconciliation. The UAE's recognition of the State of Israel has already prevented Israeli annexation of the Palestinian territories, and, going forward, will allow the Gulf states to play a highly constructive bridging role in achieving reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The euphoria playing out in the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the direct result of a global reconciliation of Muslims and Jews in the early 21st century; a familial reunion that will soon have positive consequences for the entire world. Working together, our two faith communities can overcome Covid-19, fight climate change and bring clean water and enhanced agricultural production to struggling societies in Africa and Asia. Now that Muslims and Jews are again a family, there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.

Rabbi Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Co-Author with Imam Shamsi Ali of Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation About the Issues that Divide and Unite Muslims and Jews


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