‘Going to be a warm peace’: Jewish leader in UAE reacts to normalization

August 19, 2020 by Eldad Beck - JNS
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Following Israel’s signing of peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the Arab side remained obstinate about not building bridges between their people and the Israelis.

Ross Kriel, 55, head of the oldest Jewish community in Dubai. Photo: Courtesy.

With the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, things are already different.

For example, an online poll conducted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry among Gulf state residents found that 44 percent of Emiratis would like to visit Israel to see the country’s Islamic holy sites.

Attorney Ross Kriel, 55, head of the UAE’s oldest Jewish community, is astonished at how fast warm ties are developing between the two countries.

“Only a week ago, the things happening today were still a dream, like seeing the Israelis and Emirati flags flying side by side on the front pages of local newspapers,” said Kriel. “It’s going to be a warm peace,” he adds.

Some 3,000 Jews currently live and work in the UAE, including several dozen Israelis who hold dual citizenship. Most of them live in Dubai or in Abu Dhabi.

Kriel’s own community was established 12 years ago. There are two younger Jewish communities in the Emirates, including one composed of Chabad members. The community synagogue is located in the Kriel family’s villa, not far from the famous Burj al Arab Hotel.

“There are no guards at the entrance to the house. We have community members from Antwerp, Paris and Geneva who feel safer here than in Europe,” said Kriel.

“The only anti-Semitism I’ve experienced was from Europeans. There is a social contract of mutual respect here between all parts of the real society,” he added.

Kriel’s son, Isaac, is scheduled to be the first member of the Dubai Jewish community to celebrate a bar mitzvah there this coming November.

His 26-year-old nephew, who moved to Dubai from Israel last year and is trying his hand as a developer, said “the locals here will have to understand that there are all kinds of Israelis—aggressive and gentle.”

He added, however, that “the Emirates are a melting pot of different cultures. About 100 different nationalities live here, so they’ll be ready for Israelis.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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