Amid the darkness of surging antisemitism and an uptick in Jews across much of Europe hiding their identity, a beacon of hope is emerging in the Arab world.
This week marks the inauguration in the United Arab Emirates of the Abrahamic Family House, a center for mutual understanding and open dialogue that seeks to foster peaceful coexistence for generations to come. This visionary project is a testament to the UAE’s commitment to bringing people and cultures together for a brighter future.
In November 2021, I was honored to join a World Jewish Congress mission to the United Arab Emirates, organized by the country’s embassy in Washington. Forty young Jewish leaders from 20 countries had the opportunity to engage in open dialogue with their Emirati peers and explore the potential for future collaboration, both in the UAE and around the globe. While there, I was struck by the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Emirati people, which left a lasting impression.
The Abraham Accords made the delegation possible, initiating a new era of relations between Jews and Muslims in the Gulf region. At first, many people questioned the UAE’s motivation in signing the accords. But after speaking with Emiratis, I realized that it was simple: a fundamental belief in the tolerance of others and willingness to set aside differences. This belief is rooted in the Bedouin cultural and Emirati way of life and is embodied in the words of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan ʿālāv haShālom (Heb. peace be upon him), who unified the Emirates using the principle:
We are a nation whose friendship is based on honesty, whose cooperation is based on pride, whose help is extended without vanity or arrogance, and whose support of justice and equality is unconditional.
The Abrahamic Family House is a fitting symbol and embodiment of the government’s commitment to this vision. The complex will house a mosque, church, and synagogue, each of equal size, and will provide a space for people from all walks of life to exchange knowledge and practice their faith. The Jewish community in the UAE is already growing, with Hebrew spoken openly on the streets, kosher food readily available, and young Jewish children playing without fear outside the synagogue. The government is also planning to build a community center and day school, further evidence of their commitment to creating a thriving Jewish community in the UAE.
It’s not just the government’s commitment to Sheikh Zayed’s vision that gives me hope. Speaking with the local population and government officials about Jewish identity and the similarities between our cultures brought tears to my eyes. You can feel the renewed hope of long-lost relatives getting to know each other again. There is a genuine desire to rebuild connections with the Jewish people, their language, and history.
My family originally comes from Lebanon. As with many Lebanese Jews, there is an innate love for the land and its history; our attachment to Lebanon has existed for thousands of years. Our biblical poets celebrated these sites. In fact, King Solomon used the majestic cedars of Lebanon to build the Jewish Temple, preferring it to what was nearby. While Lebanon was once considered the “Paris of the Middle East,” with its rich history of international commerce, religious tolerance, and camaraderie, that era has now passed. But the hope and wonder that once flourished in Lebanon can now be found in the UAE.
The signing of the Abraham Accords has made the UAE the new beacon of hope in the Middle East. While the Accords brought peace to the Israeli people, they also marked the beginning of a new era of relations between Muslims and Jews.
I still have hope for peace in the entire region, and the UAE has brought that hope closer to reality. I look forward to the day when all Jews can visit Lebanon and when I can prostrate myself to Jerusalem without fear.
The Abrahamic Family House in the United Arab Emirates is more than just a building. It’s a symbol of hope, a symbol of mutual understanding, and open dialogue, bringing people together. It symbolizes the UAE’s commitment to a brighter future for all.
Rabbi Isaac Choua is the Global Interfaith Lead for the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and liaison for Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.