Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi makes historic visit to Dubai

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Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi makes historic visit to Dubai

Yitzhak Yosef spends weekend in the Gulf state marking first visit to an Arab country by a sitting chief rabbi, in wake of the groundbreaking Abraham Accords

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Chief Rabbi Yosef (centre) is joined by Rabbi Levi Duchman (left) as he signs a letter of endorsement for the community. 
  (Photo credit: Dubai Jewish Community Centre / Courtesy)
Chief Rabbi Yosef (centre) is joined by Rabbi Levi Duchman (left) as he signs a letter of endorsement for the community. (Photo credit: Dubai Jewish Community Centre / Courtesy)

In a historic first, Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, spent last weekend in Dubai, marking the first visit by a sitting chief rabbi to an Arab country.

Chief Rabbi Yosef began his three-day visit by inaugurating the Dubai Jewish community’s new nursery school, Mini Miracles, and viewed the plans and proposed site for the community’s new mikveh.

In a special ceremony at Dubai’s Jewish Community Centre after Shabbat on Saturday night, the chief rabbi celebrated the official recognition by the United Arab Emirates of the country’s flourishing Jewish community. The ceremony marked the first certification granted to a synagogue in the Emirates, the Beit Tefillah Synagogue in Abu Dhabi, and of the community’s rabbi, Levi Duchman.

During the ceremony, Chief Rabbi Yosef expressed his appreciation to the Emirati royal family and government for the warm relations and care for the well-being of the Jewish community, and for the thriving relationship between Israel and the Emirates following the historic Abraham Accords.

Rabbi Duchman, a young Lubavitch rabbi, said: “The visit of the chief rabbi is as historic as it is a great honour for us to host him here in the Emirates. We are excited to welcome him as we dedicate and break ground on several of our new institutions, which are being constructed with the swiftness and efficiency for which the UAE has become world-famous.”

Chief Rabbi Yosef (centre) visits Jewish community institutions in Dubai with Rabbi Levi Duchman (left) and Rabbi Zalman Duchman (right).
(Photo credit: Dubai Jewish Community Centre / Courtesy)

During his visit Chief Rabbi Yosef toured a newly opened kosher restaurant in the Burj Khalifa building and inspected a local kosher poultry slaughterhouse.

Daniel Seal, an Abu Dhabi Jewish community spokesman, said: “This historic visit epitomises the historic achievements of the past months. With gratitude to Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, we are now able to celebrate a new era of co-operation in the region, and we are setting out to ensure that Jews who come to work or visit in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and across the Emirates, will have access to Jewish institutions and services”.

The chief rabbi also met leading government and faith officials in Abu Dhabi before his return to Israel.

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