The United Arab Emirates’ Lone Synagogue Hesitantly Comes out of the Shadows

For ten years, Jews in the emirate of Dubai have gathered in a building known as “the villa,” where they have a small synagogue—oriented so that the congregants face northwest, in the direction of Jerusalem, when they pray. But until this week the community’s existence was a closely guarded secret, and its leaders agreed to speak with the press only on the condition that the villa’s location be kept secret. Miriam Herschlag writes:

The villa [is] a converted residence the community rents, with a sanctuary, full kitchen, areas for adults to socialize and for children to play, an outdoor pool, and several rooms upstairs where religiously observant visitors can stay for Shabbat.

Since its formation in 2008, the community has been vigilant in maintaining a low profile. No dedicated website. No listing on Jewish travel sites. Almost no mentions on social media. Visitors learn about it via word of mouth, and the villa’s address is supplied only after a careful vetting.

The cover of the synagogue’s Torah scroll states that it has been “dedicated in honor of His Excellency Mohamed Ali Alabbar”:

Mohamed Alabbar is the chairman of Emaar Properties, one of the world’s largest real estate-development companies. . . . Alabbar and his business are intimately entwined with the UAE government. He also has a close friendship with an Orthodox Jew from New York. [Alabbar’s] patronage affords the community a modicum of security. At the same time, Jewish residents exercise prudence in the Islamic city-state, which has long considered Israel an enemy, and where just a few years ago Saudi-trained imams preached anti-Israel diatribes until the government expelled them.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Jewish World, Middle East, Synagogues, United Arab Emirates

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat