Dubai: A Dubai taxi driver’s “warm” gesture to the family of Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, had left them with a feeling that the UAE is one of the safest places in the world for Jews to live and visit.
Sharing her experience of walking on a Dubai street after attending a dinner along with her husband and four children in December 2020, she said her husband was wearing Kippah, a traditional head covering for Jews.
“My husband never wears Kippah outdoors in Europe because we are always a bit scared of anti-Semitic attitude, and in general, he normally just wears a hat,” she told Emirates News Agency (WAM) ahead of her weeklong visit to the UAE, which begins on Monday.
“That Friday night in Dubai we were invited to a communal dinner; on the way back, he kept his Kippah on his head. All of a sudden a taxi stopped in the middle of the road and the driver rolled down the glass window and said, ‘Welcome Jews. We are so happy to have you here!’ “ she said.
How her children’s impression on Arab world changed
Expressing her delight, Hassan-Nahoum said the taxi driver’s message represented the “warmth and greetings of the UAE people. It was really incredible.”
She said her children, aged 18, 17, 15 and 12, had grown up with an impression that “the Arab World does not like us, and I am so happy to be able to give them a different narrative. We can be friends; we can be family again and then we can build the region together. So that’s very significant to me as a mother and also as a politician and leader.”
The Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, who is also co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, said she has many such interesting experiences from her visits to the UAE since the two countries signed the Abraham Accords in September 2020.
“But this [taxi driver’s story] was the most touching one,” she added.
Hassan-Nahoum said people should continuously share such stories of friendship to further strengthen the relationship. “Such stories play an important role in relationships,” said the leader who is a lawyer and communications consultant by profession.
Israel-UAE ‘green corridor’ to revive tourism
As the deputy mayor responsible for tourism in her city, Hassan-Nahoum believes that Israel and UAE can create a “green corridor” for tourists who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel between both countries.
Since the two countries occupy top positions in vaccination campaign against COVID-19, “which is incredible, I call on my government to [accept this proposal] and I am hopeful about it,” she said.
Hassan-Nahoum is excited to welcome “a new era of Muslim pilgrims to Jerusalem” following the Abraham Accords that helped establish diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab nations — UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
The city’s religious tourism mainly focused on foreign Jews and Christians for decades and now more Muslims will come to visit the third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, she noted.
Asked about the expected number of new tourists to Jerusalem, which is still closed for tourism due to the pandemic, she said, “It is difficult to predict, but I think in a normal post-COVID year, we could be looking at almost a quarter of a million Muslim tourists, a huge chunk from the UAE and Bahrain. And probably double the number of Israeli tourists will be going to the UAE.”