It’s not happening until 2022, but the Qatari authorities are making long-term plans for the smooth running of the FIFA World Cup — and that includes looking after Jewish and Israeli football fans.
Key to their preparations are two men who have had an unprecedented face-to-face meeting recently. Hassan al-Thawadi is the importantly-titled Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organisation responsible for making sure that all the infrastructure for the World Cup is in place.
Mr al-Thawadi held a long and detailed conversation with the American rabbi Marc Schneier, described as the unofficial Jewish chaplain of the Arab Gulf states. He asked Rabbi Schneier to be Quatar’s adviser on what observant Jewish sports fans are likely to need — from kosher food to, potentially, a temporary place to pray.
According to Ynet, Rabbi Schneier described the invitation as “an exceptional development that attests to the sensitivity that the Qataris show toward Israelis and the Jewish world”. He said the Qataris had sought his advice with concern for the needs of Jewish fans in everything related to kosher food. “I responded to the request with joy. The fact that our conversation took place on this subject is already amazing,” Rabbi Schneier said.
Mr al-Thawadi, in an interview with the New York Times, has already made it clear that Israeli fans will be welcome at the Qatar World Cup.
The publicising of the meeting, and the Quataris’ apparent willingness to “play ball”, comes hard on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Oman and new reports of a previously below-the-radar Jewish community in Dubai.