The Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on Monday held its first meeting, remotely, with leaders of the Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which numbers more than 1,000 members who arrived from Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Britain, North America, South Africa, Australia and Arab countries. Committee Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) said Israel would help establish the first Jewish school in Dubai with the assistance of anonymous donors.
According to Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch (Blue and White), great efforts are being made within Jewish communities in Arab countries, and soon a new synagogue will be dedicated in the UAE. Jewish Agency Director General Amira Ahronoviz said the UAE’s Jewish community is expected to grow as entrepreneurs will seek opportunities there. Some 10,000 Israeli tourists are expected to visit the UAE each month, she said. A Jewish Agency emissary will be arriving in the UAE as early as next week to work with the local Jewish community, Ahronoviz noted.
UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna spoke via video conference about other rabbis who are active there, about the construction of another synagogue and a plan for a meeting between Israeli and Emirati youngsters. Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, senior rabbi in the Jewish community of the Emirates, spoke about the uniqueness of the community and the openness and tolerance in the country. Ross Kriel, president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, expressed optimism regarding future cooperation with civil society in the UAE.
MK Michal Wunsh (Blue and White) said, “This is a historic day, mainly because today is the [Day to Mark the Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran]. In the Knesset we have to understand the needs of the communities and what must be done to strengthen the relations between us.” MK Andrey Kozhinov (Yesh Atid-Telem) said the meeting reminds him of the fall of the Iron Curtain, while MK Rabbi Yosef Taieb (Shas) noted the importance of opening a Jewish school for education and identity in the UAE.
Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, said a number of delegations of the American Jewish umbrella organization had traveled to the UAE before the signing of the Abraham Accords, “and they all saw great potential for future progress in the relations between the UAE and the State of Israel.”