An historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry and the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai, on Sunday evening.
In a first for institutions in the region, both centers committed to teaching about what unites Jews and Arabs and will become hubs of people-to-people cooperation and partnerships. Importantly, both centers will support preservation efforts of historic and archeological sites of importance to both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa.
The event was held under the auspices of the International Institute for Tolerance, a quasi governmental organization established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai which works towards furthering coexistence, love and human brotherhood.
H.E Hamad Al-Shaikh Ahmad AlShaibani, Managing Director of the International Institute for Tolerance, opened the event welcoming a new era of peace, tolerance and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said: “History is being made at this event and together on the eve of Chanukah, we can bring light to the whole region. There is no better way of doing this than by reflecting and celebrating our common heritage and culture.”
“This event represents a turning point in Arab-Jewish relations,” H.E Mr. Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, former member of the UAE Federal National Council and Founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum said. “We are building on the Abraham Accords. The leaders of both countries have paved the way politically and diplomatically by signing the peace accord, and now it is our role, as people of both nations to translate the peace agreement into tangible outcomes through people-to-people connection, interactions, promoting peace and tolerance in the region.”
The event was also held to launch the foundation of The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry, a new undertaking to build a first-ever international center in Jerusalem that will chronicle the history and culture of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
“In Israel, the majority of Jews have direct roots in the Arab world. Many come from communities that lasted over 2,500 years,” said Eran Teboul, Chairman of The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry. “Sadly, while these communities no longer exist, their memory lives on in the language, culture and traditions of millions of Jews in Israel and around the world. These communities are a bridge to the past, but also a pathway to the future.”
On a panel discussion titled “Rebuilding Abraham’s Tent: Historic kinship, future alliances”, CEO of the Chairman of The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry Ashley Perry spoke about the recent events in the region becoming turning points in history, which is leading to the beginning of preservation of Jewish sites in the region.
“In the Middle East and North Africa, we have countless Jewish sites without community, and in Israel we have community without memorial or an official institution for the preservation of the history and culture of the Jews of MENA,” Perry said. “Tonight, we rectify both of these gaps by holding the first-ever event in the Arab world committed to remembering lost Jewish communities and the foundation of building a heritage center for MENA Jews in Jerusalem.”
The event will be preceded by a photo exhibition of sites in former Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa, sponsored by The Azrieli Foundation. The images are supplied by Diarna, The Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Life.
Other speakers at the event included, Rav Dr. Elie Abadie, Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the United Arab Emirates, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Farsi, from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai, Danny Hakim, Director of the Azrieli Foundation, Dr. Drora Arussy, Director at the American Sephardi Federation Institute of Jewish Experience, and Dr. Aviad Moreno, Assistant Professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.