DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (JTA) – As part of a historic journey through the United Arab Emirates, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel has given his Orthodox certification to the center of the Jewish community in that country at a young synagogue Abu Dhabi and other Jewish institutions, thus helping to mark a new era of Jewish religious life in the country which recently concluded a normalization agreement with Israel.
In a symbolic gesture, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef helped central Dubai to begin writing a Motsaei Chabat Torah scroll and invested the Sharia’h of the Rebbe in Dubai, Rav Levi Duchman as head of the community.
“The survival of a Jewish community depends on adhering to the values of Torah and learning Torah,” Rav Yitzchak Yosef told the 80 or so community members in attendance.
Referring to Rav Levi Duchman, he said, “The Jewish community in the Emirates is fortunate to have a rabbi who not only teaches Torah, but works to grow the community and its institutions.”
The ceremony included special prayers in Hebrew, English and Arabic, while Rav Yitzchak Yosef also expressed his gratitude to the government of the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates, a collection of seven oil-rich cities in the Persian Gulf, did not diplomatically recognize Israel as a state until August, when the two nations signed an agreement opening official relations, trade. and tourism. Since then, more than 50,000 Israelis have visited the country.
Prior to the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries that followed, including Sudan and Morocco, Israel only had official relations in the region with Egypt and Jordan.
“Dubai has already seen a wave of visiting Israelis since the Abrahamic Accords, and this is just the beginning of the potential for tourism and cooperation between Israel and the Emirates,” said Solly Wolf, the centre’s chairman. from Dubai.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Rav Yitzchak Yosef also handed over his certification to the Beit Tefillah Synagogue in the capital Abu Dhabi, whose license was approved in September and which is looking for a suitable place to open. .
“We are now entering a new phase of planning and growth, not only for the resident community, but also for the many Israelis who come to visit us,” said Daniel Seal, spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi community and member of the board of directors of Beit Tefillah. “This is an exciting time for the community, and I look forward to working with Rabbi Duchman on the many projects we have planned.”
Rav Levi Duchman, who has been in the United Arab Emirates for six years, said: “We have been waiting for this opportunity for years to be able to sit as a community and get recognition.” Addressing the assembly, the rabbi said he and others were working to build the Jewish community in the seven Emirates.
Seal estimated that around 2,000 Jews live in the United Arab Emirates.
“We don’t have an exact figure because they were never counted,” he said.
For Andreas Gulya, a German Jew who has lived in the United Arab Emirates for 10 years, it is time to step out of the shadows.
“The turn of events left me speechless,” he told the Jewish Telegraph Agency.
Participating in the ceremony with her three children, Gulya, an investment banker, said he learned of the existence of Abraham’s accords from the media.
“Until a few months ago, I dared not tell anyone here that I was Jewish,” he said, “but things have changed for the better now”.
The UAE has been more than home for Gulya since he met his Ethiopian wife here.
“She is ready to convert to the Jewish faith, and I have already had a word with Rabbi Duchman about it,” Gulya said.
During his four-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Chief Rabbi also approved the country’s first Jewish school, which is called “Mini Miracles,” and reviewed the plans and proposed site for the new mikvah of the community in Dubai.
“We have 20 students waiting to be enrolled in Kindergarten, which will be open for enrollment starting Jan. 3,” Seal said.
Concluding his visit on Sunday, Rav Yitzchak Yosef traveled to Abu Dhabi to meet with senior officials of the UAE government to discuss ways to continue to promote mutual understanding between Jews and Muslims in the whole region.
For Seal and others, it was a hopeful journey that could lead to more.
“While geographically speaking, the Middle East, and historic Arabia, was home to the Sephardic Jewish community, today there is much greater integration between the two communities around the world,” Seal said. “As such, it might have made sense that Chief Rabbi Rav Yitzchak Yosef should be the first to visit us, but of course we look forward to welcoming the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, too.” macos / deepLFree.translatedWithDeepL.text