Israelis flock to UAE as travel corridor opens in midst of COVID lockdown

There are meetings of tennis champions, coexistence talks, start-ups in town, rabbis and all manner of delegations.

Delegates attend a digital conference held by Israel and UAE, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 7, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/ABDEL HADI RAMAHI)
Delegates attend a digital conference held by Israel and UAE, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 7, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ABDEL HADI RAMAHI)
DUBAI – The multiple flights to Dubai on Monday were crowded, with no seats left for last minute arrivals. On the arrivals board at Dubai International Airport, more flights from Tel Aviv were listed on December 7 than any other single point of origin that afternoon.
This appears to be the brave new world of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates. People are rushing as fast as possible to get to Dubai.
On arrival, passengers had to show that they had had a COVID-19 test up to 96 hours before arriving and then had to do a second test. After the nose swabs, they were permitted to move on to collect their baggage and go through passport control.
Issues with visas on arrival that had encumbered a flight on the morning of December 7 had been fixed by the afternoon, and Israelis were welcomed to Dubai. The terminal was not the usual hive of activity because, besides those coming in from Israel, there is apparently not the usual number of flights. Costa Coffee and Starbucks were relatively deserted, with just a few customers grabbing a coffee and donut for the ride to their hotels.
Israelis are flooding into Dubai for all manner of events. Some are attending the GITEX technology week here. There is an inaugural UAE-Israel Future Digital Economy summit that will present “vast opportunities for business collaborations.” Aviv Baruch of the Israel Export Institute and Dov Kotler of Bank Hapoalim, among others, are headlining the event.
A plethora of other who's-who from Israel are in the country. There are meetings of tennis champions, meetings in the wake of the signing of a new agreement with a local museum, coexistence talks, start-ups in town, rabbis and all manner of delegations, from mayors to businesspeople. 
Probably never in history have two countries that just created relations had so many initiatives together as the UAE and Israel. This is partly due to the globalized business world and hunger on both sides for new connections. It is also partly due to the pandemic, which has created a unique corridor between Tel Aviv and Dubai and focused energy on this partnership.

Dubai was always a natural partner for Tel Aviv’s economy, just as Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem and Manama have shared regional interests. However, in some ways, Dubai had been out of reach for decades, whereas now it is just a short flight away. People are making use of the opportunity as fast as they can, with everything from financial technology to diamonds and real estate being pitched back and forth.  
The hum of Dubai, and its extraordinary architecture and lively atmosphere after a difficult spring due to COVID, gives many a sense of hope for the future as they arrive here from Tel Aviv. For most of the first-time visitors though, the experience is one of awe, at the large buildings like the Burj Khalifa, and the neon lights and artistic skyscrapers that go beyond what Tel Aviv so far has been able to construct.