How do you build a community?
Knowing its basics, consistently, and with a lot of faith.
These seem to be the components that precisely define the personality of Rabbi Dr. Eli Abadi, who has been appointed senior rabbi of the Jewish community in the UAE, with the aim of developing and expanding it.
Everything is at work. "
Apart from his extensive education - the rabbi speaks six languages and is an academic expert on Spanish Jewry, history, philosophy and comparative law - Abadi founded the Manhattan East Synagogue and serves as his rabbi.
In addition, he founded in New York the synagogue named after the Jewish banker Edmund Safra and also a community center named after Moise (Moshe) Safra, Edmund's brother.
On a complementary level, his genealogical background (family and family tree research) also provides him with the perfect background for the task: Abadi is a native of Lebanon (his parents from Syria) and a descendant of a 15th-century rabbinical dynasty from Spain.
"I left Lebanon as a child at the age of 10," he says.
A similar feeling was experienced by Abadi during his visit to Dubai about two and a half years ago, which became more dramatic than first thought.
"I noticed that everyone speaks English and the style is European-American, alongside signs in Arabic, of course. I began to make connections with the emirates, masks went down and doors opened. ".
Thanks to his deep familiarity with the Koran, Muslim religion and culture, Rabbi Abadi has attended interfaith conferences for decades with the participation of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Because of this, when describing the connection to the statements, the rabbi is quick to add that "many of them are interested in learning Hebrew and Judaism in order to get to know the similarities between the two religions. They tell me 'we are sister religions, and it is a pity that more than 70 years passed before To maintain this connection "'.
Morning Prayer on the Roof of the Jewish Community Center in Dubai, March 2021 // Photo: Getty Images,
The Torah scroll and the way to lead the community
Abadi's personal connection with the Emirates began about 11 years ago when an American friend, whom he met during a trip to Spain and doing business in the Gulf, asked for his help in 2019 to transfer to the Emirates a Torah scroll for the soul of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Oal Nahian - the first president of the Union The United Arab Emirates (and the father of Khalifa bin Zayd, the current president and emir of Abu Dhabi).
"I went to visit the Jewish community that lived there almost secretly," Rabbi Abadi recalled, "and six months later we were invited to the palace of the Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Zayd, who was very enthusiastic about writing the Torah scroll, and so we tightened our ties even more."
In the Muslim text "Amar Convention" attributed to the Second Caliph Omar, the reciprocal relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims was established, and although the latter do not enjoy the same rights, they are entitled to different permits, including the modalities of their spiritual perceptions and the security of their communities.
Thus, with the signing of the Abrahamic Agreements, when they were looking for a spiritual-religious leader for the community as is customary in Arab countries, Abadi’s name came up and he continued to pave paths and paths in the inter-religious direction.
Abadi: "Even before the agreements, they started a program for the Beit Avraham compound (which presents the common denominator of the three monotheistic religions, including a synagogue, a church and a mosque - etc.), and I advised them how the compound seats should look like part of the large campus that includes a church, mosque and synagogue. , So that every religion will know the other and be an internalization that we all come from one root, from Abraham our father.
"We need to help each other, love and respect each other, and see what connects the three religions. We must not fight but we must fight each other - this is the philosophy of Sheikh Zayd, the founder of the state, and his sons continue this philosophy," the rabbi explains.
Joint Shabbat reception from Israel with the Jewish communities in the United Arab Emirates
"Hear the Hebrew on the street"
To illustrate the change, which is felt on a daily basis, Abadi provides the following example: "Since last year, there has been a law in the Emirates according to which hotels are obliged to provide kosher food to their customers within one day from the date of application. Emphasizes.
In addition, the locals who are employed in tourism undergo a special course that guides them on how to receive the Jews and the Israelis.
"I helped them prepare the professional syllabus for it, and their approach to it clearly expands the psyche. They take it with due seriousness."
Rabbi Abadi and Ahmad bin Sulayim, Chairman of the Dubai Trade Center.
Abadi is quite optimistic about the future of the community, especially when he analyzes the current peace agreements compared to those between Israel and Egypt and Jordan.
"In my humble opinion, the previous peace agreements were with countries but not between their peoples. Here we have been living peace between the Emirates and Bahrain for about a year, and I see every day the interface between businessmen on both sides, hear the Hebrew on the street, see domes and it is perceived as natural Hence the comfortable feeling.
"I expect that the acquaintance between the peoples will continue and deepen in the coming years, and the Jewish community will grow significantly. From about 250 families now, I estimate there will be between 3,000 and 5,000 people in the community in five years. In the last year at least 20 more families "Others will open the doors and make peace with Israel. This is not a question of 'if' - but 'when'," Abadi estimates.