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

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy