Since the August and September announcements that the UAE and Bahrain would be normalising relations with Israel, the interest from kosher-observant Jews – both Israelis and not – in travel to these countries has increased dramatically.
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Kosher travellers tend to look for two main things when considering where to go – access to certified kosher food and a synagogue to both pray in and also to learn about the Jewish culture in their destination. In the span of less than a month, there were many announcements regarding kosher food in the Emirates.
The Abu Dhabi government instructed all hotels to offer “kosher food and beverage options on room service menus and at all food and beverage outlets in their establishments,” a kosher restaurant opened in Dubai’s Armani hotel, and Emirates airline announced that it will start producing and serving kosher in-flight meals.
Recently, the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manama, Bahrain also announced that it has become the first hotel in the kingdom to offer certified kosher food, and we are in talks with other hotels in the kingdom who are looking to do similar programmes.
The Abraham Accords has opened new destinations for kosher travellers in the Gulf that have never existed before. Nearly a dozen kosher caterers are looking to bring hundreds of Jews to the UAE and Bahrain on Passover programmes this coming March. We are proud to be working with many hotels, caterers and travel companies who are looking to bring these Jewish guests.
Many have asked why the UAE and Bahrain are so focused on making sure that kosher food is easily and readily available for Jewish travellers, and the answer is simple: religion and religious rituals are very important to the Gulf countries. It is a core value they imbue in their children and they respect other religions and their rituals as well.
The same way that Halal is important to Islam, they understand that kosher food is important to Jews. Additionally, Arab hospitality is all about making sure that your guest is comfortable, and they understand that in order for Jews to travel comfortably to the UAE and Bahrain, they need to have access to delicious kosher cuisine.
The other main component to attracting Jewish travellers is a synagogue for them to pray in. Dubai is home to two synagogues and Abu Dhabi is in the process of building one. Bahrain is home to the oldest synagogue on the Gulf and the only indigenous Jewish community in the region.
Jewish people love to visit synagogues during their travels and have the opportunity to pray in their holy sanctuaries. There is tremendous interest in visiting these synagogues in the UAE and Bahrain as they offer a unique opportunity to experience Jewish prayer services on the backdrop of being in a Muslim country.
Should Jewish travel and tourism continue to expand at the expected projections, it is very likely that new communities will develop with additional synagogues.
Rabbi Menachem Genack is the CEO of OU Kosher, the world’s largest Kosher certification agency
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