• Israel Gulf Report

Omer Yankelevitch: Exciting period for the State of Israel, Jews and the Arab world

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch provided the Israel Gulf Report with her view on the new relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.


Omer Yankelevitch is the State of Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs and member of the Knesset. A lawyer and community organizer, Minister Yankelevitch worked as a teacher and mediator. Yankelevitch is the founding director of the "Just Begun" Foundation, a groundbreaking NGO that empowers Israel’s minority communities to enter professional fields within Israeli society. The minister was a dedicated public servant and state attorney for many years before entering politics. Yankelevitch is the first female Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) minister to serve in the Government of Israel. She and her husband, Yaron, live in Beit Shemesh with their five children.

This Agreement also provides important opportunities to build new bridges with Jewish communities around the Arab world.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch believes that the Abraham Accords have ushered in an exciting period for the State of Israel and world Jewry’s relationship with the Arab world. In addition to the important new diplomatic relations between our countries, this Agreement also provides important opportunities to build new bridges with Jewish communities around the Arab world. Some of these communities are historic communities and others are new and developing, but up until this point all of their voices have not been fully part of the global Jewish community. As Minister of Diaspora Affairs, I see it as my role to build new bridges of friendship, understanding, and support with these Jewish communities so that we can create a more unified Jewish people.


The Abraham Accords and the UAE


The Abraham Accords has created exciting new opportunities for the Jewish people in opening up the relationship between Israel and the Jewish community of the United Arab Emirates.


Before the peace agreement, it was challenging for the State of Israel and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to have any significant connection with the roughly 1000 Jews who live in the UAE. Since the establishment of formal ties, I am in close contact with the Jewish community and its leaders. The week of the publication of the agreement, we participated in a moving joint (virtual) Kabbalat Shabbat with the Jewish Council of the Emirates and the greater Jewish community of the UAE. In our virtual meeting, Ross Kriel, president of the JCE, was quoted as saying: “We look forward to receiving Minister Yankelevich in the UAE and hope it will soon be possible for Israeli visitors to visit this beautiful country [...] Her presence and warm words make us feel warmly embraced among other Diaspora communities in the Jewish world.”


My office is committed to deepening the connection between Israel and UAE Jewry. The UAE Jewish community can now openly and proudly establish a dynamic Jewish community in their country.


While the community is relatively small today and mainly consists of North American and European expats, the size of the Jewish community is only expected to grow, thanks in large part to the Abraham Accords. There is much excitement in Israel and the Jewish world about the opportunities that exist within the UAE. Because of this, my office is working with community leaders and other figures in the Jewish world to create the necessary institutional frameworks to support a significant community. My office is working to expand our United (formal education opportunities) and Mosaic (informal educational opportunities) initiatives into the UAE. Once feasible, we also aim to send Hebrew and Judaic teachers and counselors through our “Small Communities” initiative to invigorate Jewish life and connection to Israel and engage the community’s young people.


Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch (Knesset spokesperson)



Bahrain and its Jewish community


The Abraham Accords provided the Israeli people and world Jewry-at-large with the key to unlock the historic and contemporary beauty of the Bahrain Jewish community.

While the Bahrain Jewish community may be small in number, its character is rich and ancient with distinct customs and traditions. The community has deep roots in Bahrain and there is an official representative of the Jewish community in their parliament. I have positive working relationships with Nancy Khedorui, the current Jewish representative, and the president of the Bahrain Jewish community Ibrahim Dahood Nonoo and we plan on further collaborating in the future. I have been personally invited by Mr. Nonoo to attend the community’s Hachnasat Sefer Torah (Torah dedication ceremony) in the near future. As part of this work, I think it is important to educate Israel and world Jewry about Bahrain Jewry’s unique traditions. By highlighting minority communities within the larger Jewish people, we are all reminded of the beautiful diversity that makes up the Jewish mosaic.


Following the Abraham Accords, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs has been committed to building bridges of friendship with the Bahrain Jewish community. Along with continued dialogue, we are committed to ensuring a vibrant Jewish future in Bahrain. I am working to send Israeli teachers and shlichim (emissaries) to Bahrain to help support their schools and youth groups which are central in creating strong Jewish identity.


A new opportunity to work directly with the governments of the UAE and Bahrain.



I also see the Abraham Accords as a new opportunity to work directly with the governments of the UAE and Bahrain.


As Minister of Diaspora Affairs, I lead the State of Israel’s campaign against antisemitism. As antisemitism continues to rise globally, I believe that we must create a broad international coalition to combat this threat to the Jewish people and all of humanity. The Abraham Accords offers new opportunities to work with the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain so that they become partners in this global campaign. Together we can better monitor antisemitism online and in-person.


I recently participated in Albania’s summit after their adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. As a Mulsim majority country, I believe this event was a paradigm shift in the relations between Muslims and Jews and our joint understanding of acceptance, tolerance, and the campaign against hate. While antisemitism targets Jews, it is a global illness and the entire global community has to be part of the effort to uproot it.


Furthermore, I believe that we must also seize this opportunity to create and institute Holocaust education in the Arab world. Understanding the unique and immense tragedy of the Holocaust is critical in creating a more understanding and accepting society.

Goals:


- To support these communities by helping strengthen their current institutions and build new programs to better serve their communities.


- To bring the UAE and Bahrain Jewish communities into the global Jewish conversation.


- To build bridges of friendship and trust between these communities, Israel, and all of world Jewry

- To invest in the future of these communities through formal and informal educational opportunities

- To teach the Israeli people and all of world Jewry about the unique customs and traditions of Jewish communities from Muslim and Arab countries, including the UAE and Bahrain Jewish communities, and the importance to appreciate the diversity of the Jewish people

- To work with the UAE and Bahrain governments and Jewish communities to ensure Jews’ safety and security against any and all forms of antisemitism

- We will work together to monitor antisemitism

- We hope to work with the two nations to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism

- To expand Holocaust education so that every child and adult understands the unique tragedy of the event and “Never Again.”


We are thrilled for this new opportunity to deepen ties with the Jewish communities of the UAE and Bahrain.

Ultimately, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is committed to our vision of creating a more unified Jewish people. I am committed to strengthening Jewish identity and supporting communities around the world. We are thrilled for this new opportunity to deepen ties with the Jewish communities of the UAE and Bahrain. We look forward to being able to partner with them, learn from each other, and create new bridges of friendship and cooperation. We are stronger as a united Jewish people and we are excited to connect with another piece of the mosaic of our people.


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