Jewish News and BOD bring Israel, Bahrain and UAE together for Chanukah
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Jewish News and BOD bring Israel, Bahrain and UAE together for Chanukah

Three ambassadors to the UK publicly come together to mark the Festival of Lights in wake of historic normalisation agreements with the Jewish state.

Tzipi Hotovely, James Cleverly, UAE Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul and Bahraini Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa
Tzipi Hotovely, James Cleverly, UAE Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul and Bahraini Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa

On the sixth night of Chanukah, people across the globe watched emotionally as the Ambassadors of Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates came together to light the candles in honour of the Jewish festival.

It was the first time the Ambassadors to the UK have publicly come together, representing a new era of normalisation between the nations since the Abraham Accords were signed this year.

The Ambassadors to the UK were joined by Tory Minister James Cleverly for the ceremony on Tuesday night.

Described as a “historic” event, the poignant moment was celebrated with a moving rendition of Chanukah songs sung live by children from Sacks Morasha Jewish primary school.

The ‘Chanukah in a new light’ online event was initiated by Justin Cohen, news editor at the Jewish News, working in partnership with the Board of Deputies’ public affairs director Phil Rosenberg and international relations officer Talia Ingleby.

Speaking to viewers, Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely wished everyone a “Chanukah Sameach”, describing UAE Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul and Bahraini Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa as “dear friends”.

With a plate of celebratory and traditional doughnuts on her desk, she described festival of Chanukah as one of “freedom”.

She said: “This ancient story is still relevant today. The modern state of Israel is 72 years old and it too is a champion of freedom. Jews, Muslims and Christians can pray together, we can worship freely; we can visit the holy sites. This is something we can all celebrate.”

She added: “This year we are celebrating in the light of peace. I’m deeply proud that we are building a warm peace with our Emirati and Bahraini friends and I believe our peace is inspiring even more countries to join us.”

She also welcomed the normalisation of relations between the Jewish State and Morocco and Sudan. “Israel is grateful that Britain has welcomed and encouraged each of these steps,” she said.

“Britain is a dear friend of ours.”

She described it as an era where the countries’ citizens could all now “meet, speak, trade and travel, an era where we can get to know each other as neighbours and as friends. An era where we can create more prosperity and security for our peoples.”

She called on viewers to celebrate the “bright future” ahead.

Watch the full video here:

LIVE: 15th December 2020 Chanukah in a new light

LIVE: 15th December 2020 Chanukah in a new lightWe are delighted to confirm Minister for the Middle East and North Africa and International Development the Rt. Hon. James Cleverly MP will be joining us and The Jewish News for our historic #Hanukkah event on Tuesday 15th December at 7pm! Please join us to spread the light with in our Hanukkah reception with the ambassadors of Israel in the UK, UAE Embassy London and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the UK. Also featuring Chazan Jonny Turgel and the Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School school choir!????????????????????????????

Posted by The Jewish News on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Bahraini Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz attended the online event from the Gulf state. Speaking from the home of Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s Jewish Ambassador to the United States, he welcomed the new era of “peace in the Middle East”.

He said: “Bahrainis have always sought to reach out to their neighbours and beyond and to build bridges of friendship and trust with all of those who share these values.”

He went onto welcome direct flights between Bahrain and Israel, said he hoped the Accords would lead to “wide ranging people to people contact”.

Besides him, sat Ebrahim Nonoo, the head of Bahraini’s 50-strong Jewish community.

Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz went onto talk about restoration works at Bahrain’s local synagogue. He said: “The Kingdom’s synagogue undergoes an extensive programme of renovation, which will soon see open and welcome worshipers from our valued and thriving Jewish community.

“In Bahrain, we are proud of the diverse communities who have made the kingdom their home and the many places of worship which we host.”

Representing the UAE, Ambassador Abulhoul spoke passionately about the new relationship with Israel and the Jewish community after the Abraham Accords.

“It is a fitting end to a year when I have experienced so much warmth from my encounters with the UK Jewish community,” he said.

“We are delighted to be involved in a Hanukkah celebration this year. It has been fascinating to learn more about the religious and historical significance of tonight’s ceremony, including the use of oil in it.”

He tied the festival’s symbolic use of oil and candle light, to the UAE’s key industry.

He said: “As one of the world’s major oil producers it is a subject the UAE knows something about.

“For those of you who have spent time with Emiratis, you will know we have a notoriously sweet tooth.

So any religious festival that involves eating donuts is going to be popular in the UAE.”

He added: “As the year draws to a close, we end 2020 wishing to forget the suffering and worry that the pandemic has brought.

“The light that we lit this year was the historic Abraham Accords, when the UAE, Israel and Bahrain, forged a new path.

“We believe it will help bring peace and prosperity to a region that desperately needs it.

“And now we have received the fantastic news that Morocco is to join us in forging a new relationship with Israel.

“As we have said many times now, we are determined to build a warm peace.

“We want a deep relationship, encompassing all aspects of national and cultural life. That means people-to-people contact at all levels.

“And although we are far from the Middle East, it is in that spirit that we come together in London tonight.”

“We want a deep relationship, encompassing all aspects of national and cultural life. That means people-to-people contact at all levels.

The Ambassador reminded viewers that the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai was lit up last week, to symbolise the beginning of the Jewish festival of lights.

He added: “Over time, I hope Hanukkah celebrations will become unremarkable across the Arab world.

“Jewish people throughout the region should be able to mark their religious festivals as freely and joyously as the UAE’s Jewish community.

“As the years go by, we will see more and more menorahs lit in the UAE as Israelis come to visit us.

“Some will even decide to stay longer to live or work. Some will end up calling it home.

“They will find a friendly country that embraces diversity and is genuinely happy to have them.”

Tory Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, also attended the event. He said he hoped the normalisation of relations would “lead to peace in the Middle East”.

He said is was an “honour” to speak alongside the participating Ambassadors, adding: “The UK is proud to have been one of the first countries. to welcome these agreements. We are committed to ensuring these agreements are a continued success.”

He wished the community a “Shalom” before pausing to remember the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that it has been “particularly acute” on the Jewish Community. “This year we celebrate Chanukah in circumstances unlike any before,” he said. “This is a chance to pause and remember anyone we have lost to COVID.”

He added: “We can see the light at last with vaccinations.”

He paid tribute to the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, saying: “Rabbi Sacks’ leadership. Wisdom and humanity touched the lives of so many in the Jewish community and so many beyond the community”.

The UK is proud to have been one of the first countries. to welcome these agreements. We are committed to ensuring these agreements are a continued success.”

The event concluded with an emotional rendition from cantor Jonny Turgel and Josh Nesbitt on the piano. The Year 5 children of Sacks Moraha, named for the late Lord Sacks, sang another Chanukah song to mark the end of the event.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl told guests that this historic occasion “embodies the true spirit and miracle of Chanukah.”

She added: “During a year of difficulty and darkness for us all, the Abraham Accords, and the subsequent agreements with Sudan and Morocco, heralded a new light. Tonight’s event celebrates that remarkable achievement and the possibilities it brings.”

Master of Ceremonies, Jewish News Editor Richard Ferrer, dressed up for the occasion and embraced his role as MC of the event, describing it as “black tie optional”. He noted that the event was being marked from “sunny Bahrain to rainy Finchley”.

He said he was the start of a “bright, new and warm” era of co-operation.

The event was sponsored by the Emmes Foundation. It was partnered by the UAE-israel Business Council, the UAE-UK Business Council, UK Business and Steinreich Communications.

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