• Israel Gulf Report

Unprecedented, historic Hanukkah celebrations in Dubai bookend week of important meetings, events

Unprecedented and historic Hanukkah celebrations began in Dubai on December 10. The celebrations continued into Friday as Shabbat set in. Large numbers of Israelis and Jews attended. The important events bookended a week of firsts. People from the UAE and all over the world celebrated the first nights of the Jewish holiday on December 10 and 11. The Foreign Desk noted "Dubai's legendary Burj Khalifa lit up on Thursday evening to mark the celebration of a very special first night of Hanukkah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first since the historic Abraham Accords. " There were thousands of people coming from Israel on the new flights from Tel Aviv and more than 100 companies, including a dozen start-ups at GITEX in Dubai this week. In addition key figures such as Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Dorian Barak of the UAE-Israel Business Council were in Dubai and events on the sidelines included business meetings, networking and introductions between key figures. Joel Rosenberg interviewed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, one of many important interviews and headline making events this week in the lead-up to Hanukkah.


Andrea Bocelli and Idan Raichel performed at the Dubai Opera on Tuesday. Michal Michelle Divon notes "Among the artists joining him were Nasrin Kadri, Mark Kakon, Avi Wassa and Maya Avraham."


Haim Bibas, the head of Israel’s federation of local authorities was also in Dubai. A delegation of mayors and others from local authorities joined the Bibas-led delegation. Alon Davidi from Sderot came and said it was a contrast of the difficulties with Gaza he had experienced in the past. Rabbi Elie Abadi of the local community welcomed the mayors, he wrote "It was a pleasure to host the first delegation of Israeli Mayors headed by Haim Bibas, and celebrate the spirit of Hanukkah together."



Shiri Maimon also sang at an event of the Israel Export Institute and Bank Hapoalim. Together with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs hundreds of Israelis and more than 130 companies had come to Dubai for GITEX. See our video from GITEX.


Many Israeli journalists joined the exciting experience. CNBC interviewed Israelis at GITEX, including Yael Ravia Zadok. See her tweet here. AFP covered the celebrations as well, as did Gulf News. WION was there as well. Ariella Steinreich highlighted many of the great meetings that took place. Rabbi Marc Schneier was among the prominent Jewish leaders who were in the country. Ruth Wasserman Lande was also in Dubai. All this culminated in the candle lighting below the Burj Khalifa on Thursday evening. See video of the singing and dancing. Ellie Cohanim also met with Rabbi Elie Abadi of the local community.


Avi Mayer, Managing Director of Global Communications of AJC Global tweeted a photo of the amazing Hanukkah as well.


The week culminated in the Hanukkah celebrations:


Khaleej Times noted "the sight of a 3-meter-high menorah on the backdrop of the world’s tallest building is a sight that has astonished Jewish community members around the world. The idea of Jewish life being celebrated on Arab land is both emotional and joyous- and above all, a reflection of the post Abraham Accords era that we live in." The site of the celebrations and the Burj Khalifa was one that many felt was historic, one they had not expected to witness this year.


"You are witnessing Jewish history," singer Yishai Lapidot said. One photo showed Photographer Shuki Lerer lighting the first candle of Hannukah.

Many people in the UAE also took the opportunity to learn about the holiday. The H Dubai tweeted "Hanukkah celebrations at The H Dubai. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it is celebrated by the Jewish community around the world for 8 nights. The message behind Hanukkah is to spread light over darkness." People from all over the world who live in the UAE or were visiting Dubai were inspired. Companies also tweeted about it. "On UAE Israel peace treaty Prime Minister of Israel - Benjamin Netanyahu said “This is the beginning of something huge...We warmly welcome you to your new home - Dubai," wrote La Capitale. People wrote in an array of languages.

Eze Vidra tweeted "Thank you Dubai for the great memories and warm hospitality. Look forward to continue building bridges between the UAE and Israel." The consensus among many was, "I can't believe what I'm seeing."


See more video.