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BGU-Sponsored Historic Photo Exhibition Opens in Dubai

BGU-Sponsored Historic Photo Exhibition Opens in Dubai

December 24, 2020

Israel Studies, Culture & Jewish Thought, Social Sciences & Humanities

While the recent signing of “The Abraham Accords” has created business opportunities, it is also creating new partnerships in the field of culture and education.

In a commitment to building bridges within academia and the larger community, BGU’s Azrieli Center for Israel Studies (MALI) launched a partnership in Dubai with the Crossroads of Civilization Museum to promote understanding and dialogue on the history and culture of Jewish communities from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The photo exhibition, sponsored by the Azrieli Foundation, reflects the rich Jewish heritage in 14 Arab countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Oman, Jordan,and the United Arab Emirates.

The historic event themed “Rebuilding Abraham’s Tent: Historic Kinship, Future Alliances,” will see Jews and Arabs come together to learn their shared roots in the Middle East and North Africa, along with exploring future possibilities of academic collaboration and partnership.

Danny Hakim, director of the Azrieli Foundation whose parents are Jews from Egypt said, “Jews from the Middle East and North Africa can serve as bridges between Jews and Arabs due to their shared language, culture, heritage, and tradition.

“Now is the time to acknowledge the past and promote understanding and dialogue so that future Jewish and Muslim generations will have opportunities to work together in harmony and in peace.”

The exhibition, featuring the works of Diarna, the Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Life and photographers Jono David and Jordan Polevoy, aims to promote research and global awareness of the history and heritage of Jews from Arab countries and North Africa.

The photo exhibition is now open to the UAE public as part of the award-winning museum’s collection.

The opening event was sponsored by the International Institute for Tolerance – a quasi UAE government agency; the Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry based in Jerusalem; Azrieli Center for Israel Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; the UAE-Israel Business Council; and the American Sephardi Federation.

H.E Hamad Al-Shaikh Ahmad AlShaibani, managing director of the International Institute for Tolerance, opened the event by welcoming a new era of peace, tolerance and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.

“This event represents a turning point in Arab-Jewish relations,” said H.E Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, a former member of the UAE Federal National Council and founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum.

“We are building on the Abraham Accords. The leaders of both countries have paved the way politically and diplomatically by signing the peace accord, and now it is our role, as people of both nations to translate the peace agreement into tangible outcomes through people-to-people connection, interactions, promoting peace and tolerance in the region.”

The images that make up the photo exhibition provide a glimpse into the lives of hundreds of generations of Jewish people who lived in these communities and prayed at these very synagogues.

For Hakim, the new relationship with the UAE and their willingness to promote mutual understanding in the field of history and heritage of MENA Jewry addresses three important issues:

  1. The healing of the pain of past generations of Mizrachi Jews who left Arab countries
  2. Passing the MENA Jewish heritage onto the next generation
  3. Reconciling with our Islamic cousins

Prof. Paula Kabalo, director of BGU’s Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zioni​sm, said, “We usually study history–this time we are making history. It is an honor for the Azrieli Center for Israel Studies of Ben-Gurion University to be a forerunner in presenting in the UAE after signing the Abraham Accords.

“MALI’s focus on the field of MENA Jewish communities and nation building is the perfect bridge between two nations. It is a natural partnership and I envision many more joint ventures in the future.”

Other speakers at the event included Eran Teboul, chairman of The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry; Ashely Perry, chief executive officer of The Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry; Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum; Rav Dr. Elie Abadie, senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the United Arab Emirates; Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Farsi, from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai; and Dr. Drora Arussy, director of the American Sephardi Federation Institute of Jewish Experience.

Photo credits: Jordan Polevoy