Dov Lipman
Member of the 19th Knesset

Dialogue between an Israeli Jew and an Emirati Muslim: Part 1


Co-authored by Majid Al Sarrah and Dov Lipman

(transcript of a real dialogue)







DOV: Hi my name is Dov Lipman.  I am 49 years old. I am married to Dena and we are blessed to have 4 children.  We live in Bet Shemesh, Israel.  And yourself?

MAJID: Hi my name is Majid Al Sarrah, I am 37 years old. I am married to Asma and we are blessed with three children. We live in Dubai, UAE!

DOV: So nice to meet you.  I worked as a teacher of Judaic studies and I am an advocate for Israel. I hold rabbinic ordination and a masters in education. My wife teaches yoga and biking. Our oldest child, Shlomo, was a commander in the IDF Golani unit. He is 23 and got married last November to Batsheva. He is now studying to become a rabbi and is a singer/musician.  Batsheva is finishing her degree to become a dance teacher.  Our daughter Devora is 20 and got married a month ago to Yedidya.  He is studying in a yeshiva and she is studying special education in college.  Chaya is 18. She does a lot of volunteering and is spending her first year after high school studying Judaic studies.  And Zahava, our youngest, is 16 and is in 11th grass.  She is a runner and an athlete and leads a local youth group.

MAJID: Nice to meet you too Dov. That’s very interesting, you have a blessed family. So I work as an aviation adviser (law and policy) besides being a lecturer in legislation, international law and public policy, my total working experience is 19 years.  My wife Asma is a financial analyst, she has been specialized in finance for the last 10 years. My daughter Aisha goes to school at grade 8, my son Omar is in grade 6 and lastly my daughter María is in KG2. They still have few more years at school till they start specializing.

DOV: That’s wonderful. They should all be healthy and you should be blessed that they bring you much joy.  I am an Orthodox Jew. Are you a practicing Muslim?

MAJID: Thank you so much Dov, may you and your family always be blessed. I am a Muslim. I am not conservative though, yet, I always thank god for everything and pray.

DOV: I think we are in the same category then.  I actually got into politics because I was trying to stop religious extremists from bothering others. My day involves prayer 3 times a day. Do I understand correctly that you pray 5 times a day?

MAJID: That’s impressive, Dov.  We have the same approach, religious extremism is rejected and we are promoting tolerance and respect for each other and all our beliefs. I do my best to keep praying 5 times a day, connection with god is really needed and we should embrace peace and tolerance throughout prayers.  In UAE the official religion is Islam, with the leadership’s policies and embracement of tolerance, the year 2019 in UAE was declared as the year of tolerance by the government which means respect people from all other faiths and reflect the positive side of our faith extruded from the correct teachings of Islam.

We totally believe in coexistence and people can live together as humans.  In UAE, you’ll find mosques, churches and synagogues, in addition to temples of other religions where people are free to practice their prayers. The house of Abraham is a project to work on the coexistence of the Abrahamic religions which will include a mosque, a church and a synagogue all in the same place.

DOV: So beautiful.  How do people in your county view Israel?

MAJID: Emiratis believe that Israel is a peaceful country and we believe in cooperation and great relations towards better future for the next generations, some people even say that we and the Jews from Israel are cousins (sons of Ismail and sons of Israel).

DOV: So nice to hear.  I try to teach my children that Isaac and Ishmael were brothers and that’s how it should be. It’s hard in Israel because we deal with terrorism from Palestinian Arabs so, sadly, that makes it challenging for them to see Arabs as peaceful cousins.

MAJID: How would it be in your culture and how do you see Emiratis from the Israeli perspective?

DOV: The peace agreements like the one signed now with the UAE really helps to change that and let them see how we can truly be brothers.

MAJID: You’re right! I totally agree.  I understand that some people see Arabs as all the same, however, Arabs vary from one country to another. Emiratis are totally different from extremists in Palestine, in fact we refuse any kinds of such acts. It is very important that we plant love, peace and tolerance in our children, you are doing the right thing as I am doing the same with my children. We believe that peace will prevail in the Middle East very soon.

DOV: Our countries have so much in common regarding our desire for peace. And we will for sure get back to the issue of the Palestinians but can you tell me more about your culture – do your children have religious schools? Do they study the Quran at school?

MAJID: In UAE, we have public schools where the main language is Arabic and they mainly study Islamic religion, and also private schools where the main language is English, Emirati students will study Arabic and Islamic while other students will learn about them as elective subjects. My kids go to a British curriculum school, so they’re learning Islam and Arabic but not extensively as they do in public schools. For both, students will need to study various parts of the Quran and the ministry of education’s policy is to teach moderate and tolerant Islamic teachings.

DOV: Very interesting. Are there any schools that teach a more radical Islam?  Also – are boys and girls in school together or is it separate?

MAJID: There are no school that teaches radical Islam, in fact it isn’t legal in UAE.  In public schools, boys and girls are separated. However, in private schools, they’re mixed together. How is it in Israel?

DOV: We also have public and private schools. The public schools are secular and coed while the private schools are usually religious and separate.  But we also have many different school systems. One for ultra-Orthodox, one for religious Zionist, one for secular Jews and then one for Arabs. This reflects some of the complexities in Israeli society.  Does the UAE have populations other than Muslims?

MAJID: The official religion based on the UAE’s constitution is Islam, Emiratis Muslims and other Muslim residents from various countries. Also, there is a large number of Christians living in Dubai and they have churches as per their sects, in addition to Jewish people mainly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Also so many people with different religious backgrounds such as Buddhism, Hinduism and others. They are free to practice their religious requirements and teachings at the designated worship places.

DOV:  So that’s another thing our countries have in common – freedom of religion.  While is a Jewish state we are proud to allow people of all faiths to worship here freely as they choose.  I would love to hear more about your country’s history.



About the Author
Dov Lipman was elected to the 19th Knesset in January 2013. He is the author of nine books about Judaism and Israel, and holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a masters in education from Johns Hopkins University. He has been at the forefront of combating religious extremism in Israel and is a leader in efforts to create Jewish unity both in Israel and around the world. Former MK Lipman is invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish state both in Israel and around the world and serves as a political commentator for i24 News and ILTV. He is the founder and CEO of Yad L'Olim, an NGO that assists and advocates for Olim from around the world.
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