Rabbi Marc Schneier with United Arab Emirate's Minister of Tolerance, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak. Schneier said Gulf States have asked him to help create a relationship with Evangelical Christians in the US..
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FOUNDATION FOR ETHNIC UNDERSTANDING.)
The “overriding consensus” among ranking ministers in the United Arab Emirates is that relations with Israel are “around the corner,” US Rabbi Marc Schneier said on Monday.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post from Abu Dhabi where he was one of dozens of religious leaders whom Pope Francis addressed at an interfaith gathering on the second day of the pope’s three-day historic visit to the Gulf state, Schneier said he sat with a number of UAE ministers who said they were “looking forward” to ties with Israel, and that it was “not a question of if, but a question of when.”
Schneier is the rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in New York and spends a good deal of time in Persian Gulf countries as head of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization that promotes Jewish-Islamic ties. He said that the UAE used the papal visit to “officially recognize” the small Jewish community of the Emirates.
“There was a celebration of the publication of a book celebrating tolerance and religious diversity in the UAE that included a guide to the different faith communities in the Emirates,” he said. “For the first time, it recognized the Jewish community.”
Schneier said that there was “no question” that the formal recognition of the Jewish community is a “result of the warming of relations between the UAE and Israel.”
The rabbi said there has been a gradual recognition by Gulf leaders that Israel is at the very core of Judaism, not just a 70-year-old political reality, and that “if they want authentic dialogue with the Jewish people, they must recognize that Israel is a religious issue for Jews, not a political one.”
Dubai houses a synagogue in an unmarked home in a quiet residential area that serves a small community of Jewish expats in the UAE. The facility has a synagogue with a Torah scroll, a kosher kitchen, and rooms for guests.
Schneier addressed the small Orthodox congregation on Friday night. During the Saturday services the congregation does not recite a prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel – as many congregations both in Israel and the Diaspora do – but rather a prayer for the welfare of the UAE government and its military forces. Many congregations abroad regularly offer a prayer for the well-being of the state and army of the country where they are located.
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