The UAE, too, is being more open about the warming ties, and is building a synagogue in Abu Dhabi
They once lived in the shadows of the United Arab Emirates. Today, emboldened by improved relations between Israel and their current home, Jews in the UAE are openly praying for the welfare of the Emirati government and its armed forces.
A video clip posted on a Twitter account maintained by a Jewish group in Dubai begins with a desert scene and the figure of a man clad in the traditional long white robe worn by Emiratis, holding a large UAE flag. It cuts to a room set up as a synagogue, with a man in a Jewish prayer shawl shot from behind.
“May He who gives salvation to kings and dominion to princes, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, who delivers his servant David from the evil sword, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters, bless and protect, guard and help, exalt, magnify and uplift the President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” the Hebrew-language prayer begins, chanted in Middle Eastern cantillation.
The blessing goes on to include the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and “all the rulers of the other Emirates and their crown princes.”
The video, which shows images of Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed, as well as various UAE sites, has subtitles in both Arabic and English, and includes a prayer that the government “deal kindly with us, the House of Jacob, and all the people of this land.”
While it is customary for Jewish communities to pray for the welfare of the leaders of the government of the country in which they live, the Jewish community in the UAE had until recently shunned publicity. The Twitter account where the prayer video appeared opened last month and has tweeted several times, including a video coinciding with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr announcing that kosher meat is now available in Dubai.
The UAE, like most Arab nations, doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel. Yet relations have warmed in recent years over a shared distrust of Iran, and in tandem, the Jewish community in the Emirates has taken a higher profile. An older Jewish community in Dubai that has existed for 10 years also says a prayer for Emirati rulers.
The UAE, too, is being more open about the warming ties, and is building a synagogue in Abu Dhabi that is to be part of an interfaith complex including a mosque and a church. The Abrahamic Family House project is expected to be completed by 2022, according to a Gulf News report last year.
Last month, a rare flight from the UAE arrived in Israel carrying medical equipment to help Palestinians fight the coronavirus pandemic, though at the same time, the Gulf nation has hewed to longstanding Arab positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted this week that “continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinain lands most stop” because such a move would “constitute a rejection of the international & Arab consensus towards stability & peace.”