New interfaith centre houses UAE’s first synagogue

Published: February 17, 2023

Dubai (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates has opened a centre housing a mosque, church and the country’s first official synagogue with the aim of promoting interfaith coexistence in the Muslim nation.

The oil-rich Gulf federation, which normalised relations with Israel in 2020, is home to a small but active Jewish community that usually prays in private.

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 centre will be a platform for learning and dialogue, a model of coexistence,” said its president, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak.

“Visitors are invited to participate in religious services, guided tours, celebrations, and opportunities to explore faith,” he said in a statement released on Friday.

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 2020 normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel was part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords that also saw the Jewish state establish diplomatic ties with Bahrain and Morocco.

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

The Abraham Accords broke with long-standing pan-Arab policy to isolate Israel until it withdraws from the occupied territories and accepts Palestinian statehood.

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