Israeli chief rabbi visits UAE

Israeli chief rabbi visits UAE
Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau landed in Dubai, where he met with the country's Jewish community and several officials.
3 min read
05 March, 2022
Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi David Lau made a visit to the UAE on Thursday [Getty]

Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau reportedly made a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Friday to meet its Jewish community, according to Israeli news outlet Arutz Sheva.

Lau accepted the invitation from the UAE's rabbi Levi Duchman, who was joined by the Gulf country’s Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan.

The rabbi also met with other officials including the Israeli envoy to the UAE Amir Hayek and the commissioner general of the Israel Expo Pavilion Elazar Cohen.

During Lau's visit, Duchman said: "It is a great honour for us to host the Chief rabbi of Israel here in the Emirates, carry a joint Rosh Chodesh prayer and meet with the dear members of our community in Dubai and Abu Dhabi".

He went on to praise the UAE leadership's "invaluable and most appreciated support", for permitting its Jewish community to "thrive and prosper".

There is an estimated 1,500 Jews in the UAE, according to The Times of Israel, while other sources indicate that the number is in the hundreds.

Lau was not the first Israeli rabbi to officially visit the UAE after the Gulf country and Israel established diplomatic ties in August 2020, which has drawn unanimous condemnation from Palestinians and other Arab nations.

Palestinians pointed out that the UAE was offering normal diplomatic and cultural ties to Tel Aviv while Israel was still illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank and besieging the Gaza Strip.

Controversial Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who said in 2016 that Israeli soldiers had a "religious duty to kill Palestinian attackers", made the first ever visit to the UAE, where he inaugurated a Dubai Jewish nursery school in December 2020.

Lau is also no stranger to controversy. He has claimed that people who convert to Reform Judaism are not "real Jews", when Israel's Supreme Court decided to end an Orthodox monopoly on Jewish conversions in March last year.

In 2019, he drew ire for requesting genetic testing for Israelis with roots in the former Soviet Union to "prove their Jewishness" before they marry.

Since the UAE and Israel’s established ties, several acts of "normalisation" have occurred, such as the establishment of Kosher restaurants, and around 1,000 Israelis re-locating to Dubai.

Public opinion surveys in the Arab world have shown overwhelming disapproval of the normalisation deal with Israel.