Why is this Passover
different from all other Passovers? Because this year, there was an Israeli Embassy to the United Arab Emirates that hosted its own Seder.
Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Eitan Na’eh and Canadian Ambassador to the UAE Marcy Grossman planned an “Abrahamic Family Seder,” inviting Muslims and Christians from their countries, the UAE, the US and UK to attend the traditional Passover event, as they celebrated outdoors at a desert resort in Abu Dhabi.
Na’eh said on Tuesday that they held an “inclusive Seder
,” in which Jewish participants explained the significance of the texts in the Haggadah and the attendees “celebrated together to find what we have in common.”
“We had shmura matzah that Chabad brought us and Haggadot in Hebrew and English, we asked the four questions and discussed the holiday and its sources,” Na’eh recounted. “Some of the texts are in Aramaic, which is in between Hebrew and Arabic, and the term b’nei horin, a free people, that is used in the Haggadah has a similar root to the Arabic word for freedom. It was interesting for the Emiratis.”
The Seder was a full one, that continued to the middle of the night, and attendees learned to sing “Who Knows One,” which Na’eh pointed out is easy to teach because it is repetitive, and features major concepts in Jewish life and history.
On the menu were brisket and schnitzel breaded in matzah meal, as well as matzah and haroset made from locally-grown dates.
Na’eh said the event was “uplifting” and “the most exciting Seder I have ever attended.”
“It was clear to us that this was bigger than just reading the Haggadah,” he said. “The event is what happened here in recent months, the relations between Israel and the UAE.”
Na’eh hailed the inclusive atmosphere in the UAE, in which he could explain to the hotel staff how to set up for a Seder and prepare the kitchen for a kosher for Passover meal, and for people wearing kippot and kanduras – the local Emirati robes – at the same table.
“Tolerance and openness to others is part of the ethos here,” he said.
Na’eh mentioned that he had already been invited to iftar meals, the feasts Muslims eat at the end of each day’s fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in two weeks.
“The UAE is totally different from the stereotype of the Middle East as a place that is constantly on edge,” he said. “We are meeting the Middle East from a different angle. Even meeting Palestinians, Iraqis, Yemenis and Pakistanis while we are here is a different experience for us and a first for many of them. The UAE has the potential to be a hub that ties use to the region, which is great.”