Jewish communities in the Gulf hosted a series of commemorative events this week to observe Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah in Hebrew.

It was the first time Yom Hashoah has been observed in some Arab countries, a remarkable development which indicates the warming ties between the Arab and Jewish populations in the region.

Jewish communities in Bahrain and Dubai participated in the Yellow Candle Project, a global effort to remember Holocaust victims where each community lights a yellow candle in the name of a Jewish victim of the Holocaust.

The Dubai ceremony featured a webinar with a delegation of Jewish and Arab Israelis, along with social media influencers, who listened to inspiring stories of Holocaust survival and remembrance. Eyal Biram, Founder and CEO of Israel-is, an organization dedicated to building bridges between young Israelis and the rest of the world, was one of the participants.

Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli Arab Christian and CEO of Together – Vouch for Each Other, an organization that connects the Arab sector to Israeli society also attended. ALL ARAB NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel Rosenberg interviewed Haddad in March.

“It was an unbelievable event that happened in an Arab country, to hold a memorial for the Holocaust and…to represent the Israeli Arabs in Dubai – in the Emirates – is just unbelievable. We are witnessing history here,” Haddad said.

The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC), hosted a panel of Jews and Muslims in a webinar. The “Virtual Yom Hashoah Commemoration” featured two young Muslims – Fetama al Harbi of Bahrain and Thoufeek Zakriya of the UAE – who visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem at the end of 2020 with an Emirati group called Sharaka (in Arabic, “Partnership”). During the webinar, the men shared their experiences and learning about the Holocaust.

The AGJC, headed by Rabbi Elie Abadie and its president Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, was established in February to bring Jews from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE together.

“It is truly remarkable that we can celebrate Yom HaShoah so openly this year in the Gulf – both as the broader Jewish community of the Gulf and in our individual communities,” Abadie said.

Abadie is also the senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of Emirates (JCE) in Dubai, which hosted an event that featured the Arab “Upstanders” – those individuals who stood up against the Nazis during World War II – including Dr. Mohamed Helmy, King Mohammed V of Morocco and Imams in Algeria. The event was organized in partnership with the Crossroads of Civilization Museum.

For Nonoo, Holocaust Remembrance Day was “both a day to commemorate the travesties which took place during the Holocaust, as well as to look toward the future and build a better world for the next generation so that it does not happen again.”

Nonoo also leads Bahrain’s Jewish community, known as the House of the Ten Commandments, and said Jews in the Gulf region “are blessed not to experience anti-Semitism. He attributed the lack of anti-Semitism to “our close relationships with our Muslim neighbors as we look out for one another.” He added that “it was important for us to also include a component of our program focused on how Muslims and Jews can build a new – and better – Middle East with a united front.”

On Yom Hashoah, the UAE Embassy in Israel delivered a Twitter message of condolence for Holocaust victims, which stated: “In their memory, the UAE affirms that the human values on which it was founded will remain firm. Love, coexistence and tolerance are among the basics that humanity needs for peace to prevail.”

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