The synagogue in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to be completed in 2022, will be a place where residents and tourists can understand religious tolerance and humanitarian values, the chief rabbi of the Jewish community in the UAE has said.
The Abrahamic Family House, which will come up on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, will have a mosque, a church and a synagogue – bringing three major faiths together.
“This project is not just about each house of worship, but what I particularly like is the garden with the educational centre and museum. I think it will inspire people to think more deeply about what makes something sacred and how the values they stand for can be protected and nurtured,” said Rabbi Yehuda Sarna in an interview with Khaleej Times.
Currently, the Jews in the UAE – consisting of around 200 families – pray at a synagogue housed in a Bur Dubai villa.
Speaking about the opportunities for face-to-face interaction that the UAE-Israel peace accord will open up, Rabbi Sarna said it is ‘culturally transformative’.
“There are currently a few places in the world where Jews can interact with Arabs. Most Arab countries do not have a relationship with Israel. Within Israel, Arabs and Jews tend to live in separate areas.”
But with the normalisation of relations between the two countries and the new opportunities for travel, Rabbi Sarna said many Israelis are curious to come and learn more about the UAE.
If it were not for the pandemic and the travel restrictions, “hundreds of Jews” would have already flown into the country, he said.
“You do not know how many rabbis – not just from Israel but also from the US – have already asked me to get them there because they want to learn about the educational and cultural movement happening across the region. They want to know how religious leaders are working towards fighting radicalisation and extremism.”
According to him, anything that connects people with each other, opens up conversations, and encourages them to understand each other – is good for humanity.
“I think we have to realise that this world is coming into contact with more and more cultures with greater and greater frequency. And we just have to build our ability and resilience in listening. For me, this peace accord represents an opening up of conversations.”