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

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security