Interfaith center, including synagogue, to open in Abu Dhabi on Thursday

The center will hold its first Shabbat services this weekend.

 The Abrahamic Family House. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
The Abrahamic Family House.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

The Moses Ben Maimon synagogue in Abu Dhabi was inaugurated on Thursday and will hold its first Sabbath services this Saturday. The synagogue is part of the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island, which contains houses of worship for the three Abrahamic faiths: A synagogue, a mosque and a church.

Each house of worship was carefully designed, incorporating traditional materials and architecture used in all three faiths. The church’s altar is pointing east, the mosque pointed toward the Kaaba in Mecca and the synagogue bimah (a raised platform with a reading desk for reading the Torah) and Torah scrolls faced towards Jerusalem.

A conference on Thursday and Friday opened the synagogue, which included an attachment of the mezuzah (a parchment with Hebrew verses from the Torah, which Jews attach to their doorposts), as well as a guided tour, a ceremony and lunch for the Jewish community.

On Friday, a conference is set to take place to discuss future relations between the religions. Among the expected speakers is Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs. The local community, under the baton of Rabbi Yehudah Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, will hold Sabbath prayers and festivities. The Emirati president’s Torah scroll will be dedicated.

 The Abrahamic Family House. (credit: WIKIMEDIA) The Abrahamic Family House. (credit: WIKIMEDIA)

President Mohamed bin Zayed had been expected to participate in the opening ceremony on Thursday, but it was reported that his brother, Saif bin Zayed, the UAE’s Interior Minister, will take his place.

“There is no site like this in the entire world,” Rosen told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Rosen, who visited all three sites said, “nowhere in the world are there three separate places of worship, established by a government, as well as an interfaith center near them. These are three stunning buildings.” Rosen explained that the fact that these three houses of prayer are located near all of the national and central museums in Abu Dhabi, “millions of tourists will visit these three places of worship since they have such amazing visibility. This is an opportunity to present our heritage of the Jewish People.”

First purpose-built synagogue in UAE

The Abrahamic Family House hosts the first purpose-built synagogue in the UAE. The Abrahamic Family House website explained that the “synagogue presents a series of architectural thresholds that culminate in a shrouded, sanctified, built representation of communal prayer. The multi-layered facade of the synagogue recalls the Jewish Sukkot festival, where palm trees are harvested and communities build tents in their gardens as designated areas for gathering and eating.” 

"Nowhere in the world are there three separate places of worship, established by a government, as well as an interfaith center near them."

Rabbi David Rosen