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Israel & UAE Peace Brings Kosher To Abu Dhabi

Since the Trump administration’s surprise announcement on August 13, 2020, of a peace accord between the UAE and Israel, things have been moving fast on the political front.

Known as the Abraham Accord and brokered by Jared Kushner and his consigliere Avi Berkowitz has created a tenuous yet hopeful prospect of greater peace among Arab Gulf countries and the Jewish state. Efforts for better relations were reportedly underway for years but went into overdrive after a piece by the UAE’s Ambassador to the USAYousef Al Otaiba, appeared in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth. The op-ed signaled a readiness for peace if annexation plans were nixed. 

There is much detail and political maneuvering when it comes to the accord. The rationale revolves around the region’s changing realities combined with the White House’s creative brokering helped Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reach the historic agreement. 

Beyond the political wrangling, though, there are exciting and promising developments on the travel and kosher food front related to the UAE and one of the most popular of the emirates, Abu Dhabi. 

Saudi Softening Its Stance

Saudi Arabia, which has not signed a peace agreement with Israel, has decided to allow aircraft traveling to and from the UAE and Israel to fly over its airspace. This is significant as such flyovers were forbidden previously and make the flight between Israel and the UAE only three hours versus a lot longer without the Saudi allowance. While El Al, Israel’s national airline, is in a precarious financial position and is in a grounded holding pattern due to the pandemic, IsraAir, a smaller Israeli carrier, has announced flights to Abu Dhabi. The possibility of a Dubai route has also been reported. The first commercial flight, mostly filled with dignitaries and journalists, was on August 31, 2020. 

What This Means For Jewish Travel From The USA 

Aside from the increased travel and business opportunities between Israel and the UAE citizens, the accord has considerably positive ramifications for the significant number of Jews from the United States that go to Israel every year. Now there are world-class destinations, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, that are only a few hours from Israel. We would not be surprised to see these cities become popular stopover destinations for Jews either on the way to or back from Israel. Further, the UAE has two of the highest-rated airlines, Emirates, and Etihad, which will add new attractive options for flying to Israel.  

Kosher Comes To The UAE & An Existing Community

Perhaps as a kind gesture or even real anticipation of significant Jewish travel to the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture sent a note to hotels requesting that they provide kosher food options.

Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture Note On Providing Kosher Food
CLICK TO VIEW NOTE FROM MINISTRY

 

“all hotel establishments are advised to include Kosher food options on room service menus and at all food and beverage outlets in their establishments.” 

– Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture

The Orthodox Union’s kosher certification arm, OU Kosher, announced that it would be leading kosher certification efforts in the UAE. 

Ross Kriel, president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, stated in reaction to the Abraham Accord:  

“This will benefit Jewish visitors as well as local residents who follow a kosher diet. As a long-time kosher resident of the UAE, this moment is reflective of the many ways in which our lives in the UAE are being transformed in the days since the Abraham Accord was announced.”

– Ross Kriel, president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates

Surprising to some, the UAE has a small yet active Jewish community with multiple synagogues and a kosher catering offering called Elli’s Kosher Kitchen (opened by the wife of the JCE’s president). Of note is coverage in Al Arabiya, a Saudi owned news outlet. 

Most of the Jews in the Emirates are there for business, including one of the stalwarts of the community, Solly Wolf. Wolf conducted an interview with Ami Magazine discussing life in the UAE. While the community once lived in the shadows on a need to know basis, with the latest positive developments, they are now more comfortable being public about their faith and community. 

A Reason For Cautious Optimism & Other Countries Joining The Fray

The Abraham Accord is set to have a signing ceremony and officiation event involving the Israeli Prime Minister and dignitaries from the UAE at the White House on September 15. In mentioning the date, President Trump has hinted at other countries’ potential to join the peacemaking fray. Some of the top contenders include Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, and Sudan. While the development of diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE is undoubtedly a reason for optimism in a historically tumultuous region, caution is prudent due to the dynamic geopolitical landscape. 

UPDATE 09/11/2020

On the date of publishing this story, President Trump announced that Bahrain will also normalize their ties with Israel.