For the first time, members of the United Arab Emirates Jewish community participated in a joint virtual Chamisha Asar B’shvat celebration organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel for families from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Israel, and Chicago. The Straussman family from the southern Lachish region in Israel planted a willow tree on behalf of all the families who participated in the event, as a symbol of the deep connection between these communities and Israel.
The Jewish community in the UAE totals over 1,000 members, centered in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is comprised of Jews from all over the world. With the signing of the Abraham Accords, there was a revival in the Jewish community, and this event marks the first time its members are participating in a Jewish Agency Chamisha Asar B’shvat event, together with communities from Israel and the United States.
The JUF-Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is connected with communities from the Lachish, Kiryat Gat and Shafir region through the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America’s Partnership2Gether program.
The Chamisha Asar B’shvat event was attended by families from each of the regions who shared touching stories about their respective Jewish communities. Also joining the event was Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog and the organization’s CEO, Amira Ahronoviz, JUF President Lonnie Nasatir, the Appointed Head of Mission at the Embassy of Israel to the UAE, Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, as well as Rabbi Elie Abadie and Rabbi Levi Duchman of the UAE .
Jewish Agency Chairman Herzog noted. “Having the Jewish community from the United Arab Emirates openly join in the Jewish Agency’s Tu B’shvat celebrations, connecting with other communities, is one of the exciting moments in this time of severe health crisis, closures and restrictions around the world. Let us hope that next year at this time we will be able to host the Jewish communities of the Gulf states here in Israel for tree planting, taking full part in our Jewish tradition.”
President of JUF of Metropolitan Chicago Lonnie Nasatir said, “The Jewish community of Chicago is proud to take part in this unprecedented celebration of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat together with friends in Chicago’s partnership region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir, and the Jewish community of the UAE.
“Tu B’shvat, a holiday of renewal and fresh start, is the perfect occasion to plant the seeds of new bonds between the Jewish community in the US, the Jewish community in the UAE and our partnership community in Israel, a living bridge connecting our people. I am particularly excited to be present as our sisters and brothers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have, for the first time, an opportunity to celebrate a Jewish holiday proudly and openly.”
Jeremy and Aurelie Cohen from Dubai, who are originally from Paris and lived in London prior to moving to the UAE, said, “Jewish life in Dubai has been amazing and even thriving since the signing of the Abraham Accords. We have everything we need – kosher food, kosher wine and kosher restaurants.”
He added that there is rich Jewish life in their community and their two children, Axel, 6, and Emma, 4, have already learned to recite songs in Hebrew. “Happy Tu B’shvat. We hope to see you soon in Dubai!” concluded the four members of Cohen family.