Hotels in Abu Dhabi have been asked to serve kosher food, under a new directive from the emirate’s tourism board.
A note issued by the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi said hotels are “advised to include kosher food options” on room service menus and at all food and beverage outlets.
“Accordingly, the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi is instructing all hotel establishments of the following: to seek kosher certification for handling kosher meals," it said.
“To designate an area in all kitchens for kosher food preparation. To label kosher menu items with a clear and visible label/reference with a recognisable symbol that denotes ‘kosher’, as per acquired certification.”
Rabbi Levi Duchman, who is based in Dubai, said the move will pave the way for “millions” of Jewish tourists to visit the emirate.
“Being the only Rabbi living in the UAE, I am so proud of the UAE that they are opening their doors to the Jewish communities around the world," he said.
It will not only encourage Israelis to come but Jews of many other nationalities also.
“If there are Jewish tourists from Paris, from New York, from London, from South Africa, from Australia and they want to come, we will ensure they will have kosher,” said the rabbi. "That’s amazing."
The word kosher means a food suitable for consumption, and simply put, it is prepared in accordance to Jewish dietary law.
For example, the Torah permits Jews to eat land animals which "chew their cud and have cloven hooves". That includes animals like cows, sheep and goats, but excludes pigs.
There are three main elements of kosher food, said Rabbi Duchman.
Content is the first. Certain meats are kosher, while all vegetables are. People who eat kosher do not mix meat and milk products, meaning they cannot eat food like cheeseburgers. All kosher kitchens have separate areas to prepare the food to ensure there is no cross contamination, which is the second element of kosher food.
"So for example, if someone just used a frying pan to make a cheeseburger, you cannot use that frying pan to make a kosher steak," he said.
"You would have to sterilise the frying pan or use a new one."
The third element is supervision. Some restaurants require full-time supervision, while some need less. "Usually we would have a separate kitchen and we would have our kosher team coming in to make sure the content is kosher, avoid cross contamination and supervise."
He already has a team of eight kosher supervisors working in the UAE, visiting hotels to get the process started.
"We don’t have a kosher catering company. We are here to enable the hotels and everything to become kosher and to have access to everything."
Certification of kosher food in the UAE will be carried out by the Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certification agency, in partnership with the local groups.
Community leader Ross Kriel, who is president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates and runs Elli's Kosher Kitchen in Dubai with his wife, Elli, said the mandate by the tourism board was "a wonderful expression of welcome" by Abu Dhabi.
"This will benefit Jewish visitors as well as local residents who follow a kosher diet," he said.
"As a long-time kosher resident of the UAE, this moment is reflective of the many, many ways in which our lives in the UAE are being transformed in the days since the Abraham Accord."
Ms Kriel said their company was already working with Orthodox Union to produce "high quality, ready produced kosher meals" to hotels and tour groups.
One is Dubai's Habtoor Group, which is introducing kosher catering at its many hotels including Hilton Dubai, V Hotel and Habtoor Palace Dubai.
Not all Jews keep kosher, including David Zabinsky, who is Jewish and lives in Dubai.
But the gesture is appreciated by everyone in the community, he said.
"This type of policy naturally will also encourage diversity, and multiculturalism to have millions of people access this part of the world that has previously been inaccessible, or quite difficult to access, is fantastic," he said.