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UAE Rabbi meets with Congregation Beth Israel

With the news this week that the nations of Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed the Abraham Accords to normalize relations between the two nations, members of Congregation Beth Israel heard from someone with direct knowledge about what the change would mean.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Rabbi Levi Mentz and the congregation hosted a video-call with Rabbi Levi Duchman, who has lived in the UAE for the last five years and was in Washington, D.C. this week for the signing of the accords.

“Just think about being Jewish 70 years ago, and if you would have told a je 70 years ago there will be Arab nations that will with joy, with a smile, be interested with loving, peaceful relationships with the Jews, you would have said, ‘Not in my lifetime,’” Mentz said. “Look what happened, the perseverance of believing in our highest ideals.”

Calling the local congregation once he had made it back to Dubai, Duchman said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“The context of the call was Prime Minister Netanyahu was telling us that yes, on a political level, we are starting this normalization, but he was explaining the importance of our community, the Jewish community, in the united Arab Emirates, and the great effect that it had bringing the people together,” Duchman said.

Duchman said he had had the support of the UAE’s royal family and said authorities were “always very welcoming to the Jewish communities” in the country.

“WE really had everything we needed, whether it was to import kosher meat… whether it’s for books for educating children,” he said. “Really whatever it is, the government has just been s supportive here, so helpful.”

While the local Jewish community had support, that was not the case between the UAE and Israel, but the agreement would changed that.

“There was no recognition of the state of Israel, so there were no direct flights,” he said. “We’re, just to put this thing in perspective, now that there is this agreement, we are going to be the only Jewish community in the world that can have kosher food imported by tuck from Israel, so ground transportation, we’re only 25 hours away. It’s like New York to Miami, so it’s very, very close.”