Nov 29, 2022
Federation Mission Brings 45 Miamians to Dubai
“This was a historic Federation Mission,” said Richard Fain, who, along with his wife Colleen, chaired the Dubai-Israel Mission, which traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel November 8-17. “We spent more than half our time in an Arab country … focused on tolerance,” he added.
The 45 Mission participants journeyed with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation first to Dubai, where they were exposed to a spectrum of Emirati culture, politics, industry and a relatively new Jewish community that is flourishing under the welcoming auspices of the UAE. Federation Board Chair Ariel Bentata said, “There was significant discussion of how tolerant the Emirati society is — how more than 200 nationalities peacefully coexist. One rabbi even told us he feels safer wearing a head covering in Dubai than in any other place in the world.” The Mission concluded in Israel, where the group witnessed firsthand the significant economic and political developments that have sprung from the Abraham Accords.
The diverse UAE Mission itinerary included meetings with Amir Hayek, the Israeli Ambassador to the UAE, and Rabbi Levi Duchman, the first resident Chief Rabbi of the UAE; a visit to a Mini Miracles, a multilingual kosher nursery and preschool; a tour of the highly innovative Museum of the Future; and dune bashing — or driving through the desert — in SUVs. One of the most impactful highlights, notes Fain, was a trip to the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum hosted by its founder, Ahmed Obaid al Mansoori. “He created a Holocaust memorial museum in the desert long before the Abraham Accords [which normalized relations between the UAE and Israel in 2020] and he funded it entirely on his own,” he said. “We were lucky enough to be there on the anniversary of Kristallnacht,” he added. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
For Bentata, a powerful takeaway is how the UAE is embracing a burgeoning Jewish presence in the country as well as rapidly developing ties with Israel. “When we met with local Jewish leaders, we learned how the Emiratis have been incredibly supportive, offering land to build synagogues and promoting the opening of kosher restaurants and Jewish schools. And the Emiratis confirmed their desire to see the seeds of cooperation with the Jewish State grow and multiply all over the region,” said Bentata. “They see themselves as the brokers of acceptance and stability. Our rabbis teach us that a single light can displace a lot of darkness. The Emiratis are spreading a lot of light.”
Upon arriving in Israel, the group attended high-level, private briefings with the head of the Bursa, or the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, US Ambassador Thomas R. Nides, the Prime Minister’s Head of National Strategic Communications Lior Haiat and a panel discussion following the Israeli elections at the Israeli Democracy Institute. The group also viewed the Situation Room of Federation overseas partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and learned of JDC’s critical role in aiding Jews in war-torn Ukraine and the surrounding region. A key moment in Jerusalem was the group’s open discussion with the President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog. “Here are our two leaders, Ariel and Jacob [Solomon, Federation President & CEO], leading a conversation with President Herzog,” recounts Fain. “It was truly a thrilling day for everyone.”
“Colleen and I can’t begin to express our appreciation for the opportunity to be part of a group of such wonderful people and to be part of such an amazing and strong Federation,” said Fain, who, by the Mission’s end acquired “new friends, new insights, and a new determination to take Federation to a new level.”