Jewish community looks at Dubai synagogue as population doubles

Rabbi Elie Abadie says place of worship would be in addition to the Abrahamic House synagogue in Abu Dhabi

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The UAE’s Jewish population is growing significantly, the country’s senior rabbi said after a visit from Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Emirates on Monday.

“The Jewish population has already doubled [since the signing of the Abraham Accords], it’s happening and will continue to happen,” Dr Elie Abadie, the Emirates' senior rabbi in residence told The National.

Mr Herzog’s visit shows the UAE “is a very friendly country, where the Jewish community can grow and thrive so there will be more coming here”, he said.

The next most important institution [to the Jewish community] is the building of an actual synagogue in Dubai, because nowadays some are using villas and hotels
Dr Elie Abadie

Mr Herzog and his wife, first lady Michal Herzog, were on the second day of a two-day visit to the Emirates — the first by an Israeli head of state. Mr Herzog was welcomed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

The UAE hosts between 350 and 500 Jews who are active within the community, Rabbi Abadie believes, but the number might be more as there are people who do not take part in community activities.

About 250,000 Israelis have already visited the Emirates since the Abraham Accords were signed in the summer of 2020.

Rabbi Abadie hopes the visit of Mr Herzog will encourage the building of a synagogue in Dubai.

“I think the next most important institution [to the Jewish community] is the building of an actual synagogue in Dubai, because nowadays some are using villas and hotels,” Rabbi Abadie said.

“The move will be significant and meaningful,” he said.

Currently, worshippers can gather at the Jewish Community Centre in Al Wasl, or at the Address Dubai Marina Hotel to attend services.

After the visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in 2018, the Emirates announced the building of the Abrahamic Family House on the capital’s Saadiyat Island. This will include a mosque, church and synagogue.

The project is expected to finish by the end of 2022.

Mr Herzog’s presence in the Emirates will encourage members of the faith to visit and live in the country, said Rabbi Abadie.

“It gives the community a sense of recognition, representation in a sense, a sense that we have graduated to be an official community here,” he said.

“The [Jewish community is] excited, thrilled, very proud, it has been an experience to hear and see the Israeli national anthem, even the president himself said he shed some tears when he heard it as he couldn’t believe it,” said Rabbi Abadie.

During his visit to the UAE, Mr Herzog met Rabbi Abadie several times.

“He is looking forward to strengthening the Abraham Accords,” Rabbi Abadie said.

“Mr Herzog believes other countries will be joining the Accords. He hopes that every country would join, of course.”

The Abraham Accords was formally signed between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in Washington on September 15, 2020, opening the door for diplomatic, trade, travel and business ties between them.

The UAE and Israel opened their respective embassies in the past year, formalising their commitment to peace in the region.

Morocco and Sudan have also since normalised ties with Israel.

Abrahamic Family House: in pictures

Updated: February 01, 2022, 3:47 AM