Video: Dubai will have its first official synagogue soon
A synagogue will be part of The Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, set to open in 2022.
The Jewish community in Dubai is awaiting the opening of their first officially recognised house of worship in the emirate, said Ross Kriel, the president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates.
The expectations surrounding the opening of a synagogue in Dubai come in line with the construction of The Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, set to open in 2022. This symbol of religious tolerance will have a mosque, a church and a synagogue, all in one place.
With the historic UAE-Israel peace accord and the recent normalisation of relations between the two countries, the community now sees an opportunity to openly practise their faith in the Emirates.
"We are in the process of seeking our permit from Dubai's Community Development Authority and we have been strongly supported by the government in making our community formal," said the community leader Kriel, who hails from South Africa.
Consisting of around 200 families, the UAE's Jewish community have held their prayer meetings and hosted festive dinners in a Bur Dubai villa since 2015.
Since their new synagogue will become an officially recognised house of worship, the location "offers a much larger space for the community to come together", said Kriel.
Though no official opening date of the new place of worship has been revealed, the community is hoping that they will soon be greeted with the good news around the time of their festive period known as the 'High Holidays', which begin with the Jewish new year - known as Rosh Hashanah - that takes place in mid-September.
Jews in the country now feel more at ease about their identity, since the agreement between the UAE and Israel was announced, Kriel said.
"Until the UAE acknowledged Israel, many members of our community felt that they couldn't declare their Jewish identity fully. With this very important announcement of the Abrahamic Accords, I am hoping that people would be much more comfortable declaring their faith and taking our place among all the other beautiful religions in the UAE."
Where the community started
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and in order to facilitate the move to a much larger and a permanent location, the synagogue has shifted back to the personal residence of Kriel, which is also where the community first grew back in 2013.
Behind the formation of the prayer group were Kriel and a Belgian national, Alex Peterfreund, who also leads the community prayers as a Cantor.
"Together with my dear friend Alex, we started to create a community from my home where we now meet every Saturday for our main service, which is in the morning of the Sabbath," Kriel added.
According to the Jewish Council of the Emirates, the opening of Dubai synagogue will make Jews all over the world feel welcome to visit the UAE.
Inside a synagogue
At Ross's personal residence, the holy script Torah are in the form of scrolls that are housed in an ornamental cabinet known as 'Ahron Kodesh', translated as 'the holy ark'.
To host the communal service of Torah reading, a congregation of at least 10 men is required, as per the customs. They offer their prayers facing in the direction of Jerusalem.
Explaining how the prayer service, Ross said: "The master reads from the Torah from an elevated place while the other men join the prayers. Those who are married wear their prayer shawls called the Tallit."
During the Orthodox Jewish services, men and women sit separately.
How Jews offer prayers
Jews perform their prayers three times a day which include, Shacharit in the mornings followed by the Mincha (afternoon) and Maariv (evening) prayers. Reading from their holy script, the Torah, requires a congregation of 10 men. Excerpts are recited three times a week.
The Torah scroll contains the five books of Moses. For the public reading during the main service on Saturday, a set section of the Torah is recited to complete the entire script in a year.
A Dubai resident for over six years and a prayer leader, Alex Peterfeund said that they "start reading the Torah from the start of the Jewish New Year, which happens in September or October, and continues until just before the festive period known as the High Holidays".
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