‘Model of coexistence:’ New interfaith center houses UAE’s first synagogue

Published: February 17, 2023

Housing a mosque, church, and synagogue, ‘the center will be a platform for learning and dialogue, a model of coexistence’

The United Arab Emirates recently opened a center housing a mosque, church, and the Gulf state’s first official synagogue, with the aim of promoting interfaith coexistence in the Muslim nation.

With three houses of worship in the same place, the Abrahamic Family House – inaugurated on Thursday in the capital Abu Dhabi – is the first of its kind.

“The center will be a platform for learning and dialogue, a model of coexistence,” its president Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak told AFP, adding: “Visitors are invited to participate in religious services, guided tours, celebrations, and opportunities to explore faith.”

The three houses of worship are of equal stature and share the same external dimensions. The only other synagogue in the Gulf Arab region is in Bahrain, which also has a small Jewish community.

The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities praised the UAE for opening another house of worship in the region.

“We are particularly excited to see another synagogue built in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” it said in a statement. “There is something very special about a synagogue being built in a Muslim country.” 

The UAE was the first Gulf country to normalize ties with Israel and only the third Arab nation to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Home to a small but active Jewish community that usually prays in private, the oil-rich Gulf federation normalized relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords that also saw the Jewish state establish diplomatic ties with Bahrain and Morocco.

The Abraham Accords broke with long-standing pan-Arab policy to isolate Israel until it accepts Palestinian statehood.

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