In the photo: Israelis and Emirates celebrate Hanukkah together in Dubai.
What has surprised Israelis perhaps more than the actual normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates is the overtly and genuinely warm reception they have received from their new Arab friends.
Israel has officially been at peace with Egypt and Jordan for decades. And Israelis regularly visit both of those neighboring Arab countries. But they rarely receive any kind of special treatment, and sometimes even face hostility as the media and political echelons in both Egypt and Jordan remain antagonistic toward the Jewish state.
Not so in the UAE. In fact, the situation there is quite the opposite.
Even in the midst of an ongoing coronavirus crisis, Israelis were quick to jump on the opportunity to visit the fabled cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There are currently some 10,000 Israeli tourists in the UAE.
And they are getting red-carpet treatment, literally.
When two Israelis were injured in a car accident while out in the desert near Dubai, they were actually told by local paramedics to use their Israeli passports rather than their secondary foreign passports (one has a British passport and the other a Portuguese one) so they’d be taken even better care of.
“We are here in the hospital and they are caring for us in a truly exemplary way,” one of the injured Israelis, Liran Landau, told Israel’s Channel 12 News. Landau said that when they called for help, not only were large rescue teams dispatched, but the crown prince and the president of the UAE both sent helicopters to search for the Israelis.
Once help arrived, “the paramedics told us to say that we have Israeli passports because they will take the best possible care of us,” Landau recalled. “And that is how it was. They laid out the red carpet for us at the entrance to the hospital. We prefer to stay here than at the Four Seasons Hotel.”
Similar accounts have been pouring in from Israelis who have been taken aback by the unrestrained friendliness of the Emiratis.
A Hanukkah miracle
Emirati tourists have also begun visiting the Jewish state, and are being warmly received by Israelis.
A delegation from both the UAE and Bahrain took part yesterday in a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall.
“It is a Hanukah miracle to see the delegation from the UAE and Bahrain here with us participating in the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony,” said Western Wall Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. “Who would have believed that peace would come to our house in such a magnificent way?”
Israel: delegation from the UAE and Bahrain participate in a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall pic.twitter.com/n33sne79XZ
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) December 14, 2020
A day earlier, the delegation was hosted at the President’s Residence, where Israel President Reuven Rivlin told them that their visit is “another step in the path of building warm relations between our countries. I wish you a successful visit and I am glad to meet you here in Jerusalem.”