First Steps in Dubai
As a family we have had the privilege of visiting many countries and experiencing a variety of cultures.
This week we arrived in Dubai for the first time to visit the emerging Jewish community and to meet with some of the leaders who are here pioneering the Arabic and Jewish peaceful existence that is now possible due to changes in international policy.
As we left the UK to the backdrop of a deeply unhealthy situation of protests and race-related incidents on the news, we reached an oasis of calm in a turbulent region.
Dubai, for the uninitiated, is a melting pot and business hub where people of every culture, nationality, creed, and religion come frequently to do business and to experience vacations – the host culture is unmistakably Islamic and serious about its religion and society, however, there is a great tolerance of western paradigms and in general there is little conflict in terms of the private lives of those who live and visit here provided that in public a dignity and decorum are maintained that it is respectful to Islam and to the general public who are gathered internationally.
Our first impressions of this 187-year-old city that has expanded greatly in the last 50 years into this modern technological and financial giant is one of deep respect, the city is clean, vibrant, and architecturally interesting. On the street level, one finds individuals from a great variety of backgrounds and diverse fields of commerce and interest, it feels at times as if the majority of its inhabitants are ex-pats from around the world.
Last night we were honored with attending the UAE’s first Holocaust Memorial, we joined delegates from around the world at the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum which is located at the former residence of the grandfather (H.H. Sheikh Hashr Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum) of the current Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid – the museum itself is largely a private collection of a single-family, which the founder, Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoor has personally devoted his life to the collection and preservation of the history of the region, he spoke eloquently at the event saying:
“We are all concerned about the rise in antisemitism in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As a leading cultural institution in the UAE, it is very important to us that we focus on educating people about the tragedies of the Holocaust because education is the antidote to ignorance.”
Rabbi Elie Abadie MD (Senior Rabbi, Jewish Council of the Emirates, and Association of Gulf Jewish Communities) spoke and delivered heartfelt Hebrew prayers in the memorandum of those who had passed, Ross Kriel the active head of the community of Dubai spoke of the monumental historic moment as well as Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh to the UAE who said:
“What we see here is the exact opposite of what we see in Gaza… What we see here in the whole normalization process is a departure from the past,”.
He joined by the German Ambassador to the UAE Peter Fischer who I took time to speak with personally as my Grandmother had been born in Bollendorf Germany and was herself a survivor.
The actual exhibition was extremely tasteful and contained many original artifacts as well as collected stories from various elements of the Holocaust, the other areas were open for visitation including a multifaith exhibit containing sacred items and manuscripts from many faiths and groups.
The overall event and experience of a Holocaust memorial in the UAE is something that will remain with me forever and stands a true testament to the desire to build bridges and seek a common dialogue, in what we all hope are pathways to permeant peace built on mutual respect.
Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt 2021 ©