Some Indian schools in UAE halt Diwali celebrations due to Israel-Gaza war

School leaders call for peace and prosperity as festival takes place against a backdrop of conflict

A woman with an earthen lamp beside a rangoli, a hand-decorated pattern on the floor, during Diwali festivities in Ahmedabad, India. Photo: AP
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Some Indian schools in the UAE have cancelled Diwali celebrations due to the continuing Israel-Gaza war.

The festival of happiness, prosperity and light is typically marked in colourful fashion by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world each year.

A wide range of activities are usually held – from large-scale events to intimate family gatherings – when the UAE lights up for Diwali.

We urged all our communities to find the light within and shine it bright in their own individual ways
Nargish Khambatta, Gems Modern Academy

But this year's holiday coincides with a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region, with thousands killed and about 1.5 million displaced by the deadly conflict in Gaza.

Diwali began on Friday with the main celebrations to be held on Sunday.

Three Gems Indian curriculum schools – Our Own Indian High School, Gems Modern Academy and The New Millennium School – will be marking Diwali with an extended weekend.

The schools closed on Friday, with classes to resume on Tuesday.

All other Gems Indian schools were due to remain open on Friday, but will close their doors on Monday to mark the festival.

Schools hope for peace and prosperity

“As part of our overall suspension of celebratory events at this difficult time in our region, we are not holding our usual Diwali celebrations in our schools," said Nargish Khambatta, senior vice president of education and principal of Gems Modern Academy.

"However, this year we urged all our communities to find the light within and shine it bright in their own individual ways."

Dr Beno Kurien, principal at International Indian School Abu Dhabi, said the school would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

"We decided not to celebrate because of the war. We are not celebrating but we are giving holidays," Dr Kurien said.

"Diwali is the festival of lights and our hope is that it brings peace and prosperity for everyone in the region. Let it be a victory for humanity and bring peace to the world."

The Indian High Group of Schools, which closes its doors every year for Diwali festivities, will have its three campuses closed on Monday and Tuesday.

"We have given two days off and are encouraging everyone to celebrate respectfully, keeping in mind the current geopolitical situations and to be mindful of those around them," said Punit Vasu, Indian High Group of Schools' chief executive.

Pupils at Delhi Private School Dubai will have a day off on Monday.

Several live events have been put on hold in recent weeks because of the conflict.

Some concerts at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena were postponed, including a performance by singer Sean Paul, the debut performance in the emirate of award-winning American singer-songwriter Khalid and an appearance by American rapper Macklemore.

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Updated: November 10, 2023, 11:19 AM