Special: An Israeli Torah scroll in memory of Sheikh Zayed

Dubai - The film ‘Amen-Amen-Amen’ is expected to be released in early 2021.

By Michal Michelle Divon

Published: Wed 16 Dec 2020, 11:47 AM

Last updated: Wed 16 Dec 2020, 11:52 AM

Few know about the Torah scroll that was dedicated to the memory of United Arab Emirates founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and presented to his son, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

This seemingly unlikely event took place in 2018, pre ‘Abraham Accords’ and pre ‘Year of Tolerance’ in the UAE, and at the time there was one small “underground” Jewish community that would meet at a private villa to pray.

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Celebrating Hanukkah with local media coverage and congratulatory messages at hotel lobbies as seen this year, is something no one in the Emirates Jewish community believed would happen so soon. “It took everyone by surprise, it still feels like a dream” Alex Peterfreund the community Cantor said in a pre candle-lighting event at Dubai’s newest kosher restaurants by Ellie’s Kitchen at Hilton Al Habtoor.

Back then, with no idea that a normalization agreement would be reached between Israel and the UAE two years later, the Jewish community, known today as the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) teamed up with Religion Media Company in order to document the unique story of the dedicated Torah scroll, calling the film ‘Amen-Amen-Amen’.

From a workshop in Jerusalem where the scroll was written, to a workshop in Brooklyn, NY where the Torah’s case was finished, to a November 2019 dedication ceremony at an Abu Dhabi palace, exclusive footage kept under wraps until now, takes the viewer inside an intimate story that is indicative of the global transformation shaping the Middle East and Gulf region.

“The gesture of dedicating a Torah scroll to an Arab ruler is unimaginable,” says Eli Epstein, a businessman and interfaith activist who first came up with the idea.

David, a Jewish craftsman in Jerusalem who fled Baghdad with his parents says he hopes this Torah scroll will bring Jews and Muslims closer together. “My son told me that we are making a Torah scroll for Dubai. I told him- prepare the most beautiful book, the most professional, the most correct. I feel that a Torah scroll, reaching a Muslim country- it’s gives me such a good feeling”

As Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, with thousands of Israelis visiting Dubai for the first time this holiday, the film 'Amen-Amen-Amen’ sheds light on the undercurrents leading up to the Abraham Accords, and the close pre-existing ties between the newest Jewish community on the Arabian Peninsula and the leadership of the UAE.

The documentary is expected to be released in early 2021.

Image courtesy: The film 'Amen-Amen-Amen'
Image courtesy: The film 'Amen-Amen-Amen'

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