A few years ago I travelled to the United Arab Emirates in order to facilitate a Jewish marriage.
I must confess that I was a little apprehensive. My colleagues in Dubai advised that I wear a baseball cap in order to avoid attracting unnecessary attention.
As I approached immigration, I handed over my UK passport. As the Emirati official opened it up, I realised that my photo revealed a large black Kippah.
Without saying a word, he looked straight up at me. I tried my best to keep cool.
To my confusion, he then began to slowly turn the pages of the passport. Finally he found what he looking for. He had come to a page with Israeli stamps.
My heart skipped a beat. Once again he looked carefully at me. He then stamped the entry pass on the same page as the Israeli stamps. [see image] No words were exchanged. I breathed a sigh of relief.
My experience in Dubai made a strong impact upon me. I met many Jews and Muslims during my stay.
I began to wonder what if we could all put our differences aside and focus on what we have in common. What if we would focus on the benefit-cost ratio for both our peoples. Try looking for the win-win scenarios.
On one occasion I met some Muslims from Gaza. After a lengthy conversation I asked them, perhaps we should look at life not from our perspective, but from the vantage point of our father Abraham.
Instead of engaging each other, thinking only about ourselves, let’s look at each other in the same way as a father looks towards their children.
This Monday the world watched in awe as an El Al plane touched down in the UAE for the first time in history.
The images of the delegation from Israel and the USA were most dramatic. Enemies for decades, with no end in sight, had finally made peace.
As head of the Israeli delegation Meir Ben-Shabbat descended from the plane, one could not help but notice how he raised his hand to secure his Kippah on his head, amidst the strong winds.
There are unprecedented waves of change sweeping our world. As Jews who are eternally optimistic, we believe it is all for the good.
But the greatest change in the world occurs only as a result of personal transformation.
This historic peace agreement between Israel and the UAE is being called the ‘Abraham Accord’.
No doubt the lesson for all of us as Jews is clear.
Aren’t we all children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Shouldn’t we all, as children of our forefathers ask ourselves, how do our ancestors feel about us?
Are we the children giving our ‘father’ nachas? Are our ancestors proud of their descendants?
The most sacred verse in all of Jewish life and history is ‘Shema Yisrael’. It is the phrase that has captured the deepest and purest faith of our people, during the most challenging times known to mankind.
It’s origin is less well known. It is uttered in the final moment of the life of our ancestor Jacob (who was also called Israel).
As he was about to pass on, all his children, the twelve tribes, gather around his bedside and pledged their loyalty and faith to G-d and their dear father Israel.
The final word is “Echad”, which is comprised of two parts. The numerical value of ‘Alef’ is one. The combined value of ‘Chet’ and ‘Dalet’ is twelve.
The inference is simple and powerful. As children, their final pledge to their father ‘Israel’ was, that the ‘one’ will forever permeate the ‘twelve’.
Yes we are indeed many children, with different personalities and mindsets. However, “We are all of us sons of the same one man” (Genesis 42:11).