The United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the Dubai Expo 2020 at the end of September with an impressive 90-minute ceremony, filled with gripping speeches by UAE diplomats, fireworks and star-studded performances.

The extravagant six-month $7 billion world fair will showcase 191 countries, including Israel, and will remain open through March 31, 2022.

Merely a year ago, the United Arab Emirates and Israel established full diplomatic relations through the historic Abraham Accords in September 2020. The Emirati organizers anticipate some 25 million visitors to the Expo 2020 as it is the first of its kind in the Middle East and is expected to become the most attended international event since the pandemic. The world’s first Expo was held in London in 1851.

“The entire world gathers in the UAE as we inaugurate together, with the blessing of Allah, Expo 2020 Dubai,” Hamdan said. 

Israel Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE (Photo: screenshot)

The Israeli Minister of Tourism, Yoel Razvozov is scheduled to open the Israeli Pavilion at the Dubai Expo on Oct. 7. The Israeli Pavilion’s slogan is “Never stop dreaming, creating, improving and innovating” and it will have an illuminated sign “Toward Tomorrow” in Arabic and Hebrew. 

Menachem Gantz, spokesman for the Israel Pavilion, was enthusiastic about the Jewish state’s participation at the Dubai Expo 2020. 

“We’re very happy to be here. “This is the first time the Expo is in the Middle East, and the first time Israel is participating in an event of such a large scale and importance (in an Arab country),” Gantz told AFP.

Gantz said the Israeli Pavilion emphasizes the similarities between Israel and the Emirates. 

“Our pavilion… is made of things that integrate us, that show how similar we are,” he said. “The ‘sand’ we’re standing on symbolizes the dunes, and the topography of Israel and the Emirates is very similar to it.”

Razvozov and his Emirati counterpart are expected to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation in tourism and marketing. More than 130,000 Israelis have visited the United Arab Emirates since the normalization agreement was signed between the countries in September 2020. This number will likely increase dramatically in the near future as travel opens up. 

Meanwhile, the Jewish state, which has been largely closed to international tourism during the pandemic, is preparing to welcome a large number of tourists from the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab states as it slowly opens its borders again. 

The Israeli Pavilion is hoping to attract some 15 million visitors over the next six months. While the Expo will attract people from all over the world, the majority of the visitors will arrive from neighboring Arab Gulf states. This means that the Dubai Expo 2020 will be an excellent platform to showcase Israel to the Arab world in a non-political, commercial and friendly atmosphere. The Israeli Pavilion will display the Jewish state’s capabilities in diverse areas such as tourism, cyber technology, medical equipment, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, agriculture and water technologies. 

Ironically, at a time when Arabs and Israelis are increasingly working together to build a peaceful and prosperous Middle East, the European parliament recently voted to boycott the Dubai Expo 2020 over the UAE’s human rights record. Human rights groups have criticized Abu Dhabi over its treatment of women and migrant workers and for its role in Yemen’s civil war.

“This resolution is an important step toward holding the UAE government accountable for its ongoing systematic human rights violations against its own citizens and its utter disregard to international law,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director at European Center for Democracy & Human Rights.

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