The Economist. April 4th, 2019
It is simply called “the villa”. Its white walls have no markings and an official permit is pending. For its founders, though, the low-key opening of the Arab world’s first new synagogue in generations signals the dawn of a Jewish revival. Standing near the beach-front in Dubai, the synagogue offers Hebrew classes and kosher catering and has just acquired a rabbi. “The promise of our community is the rekindling of a Judeo-Islamic tradition,” says Ross Kriel, president of the new Jewish Council of the Emirates.
That may sound unduly hopeful in the Arab world, which uprooted its 800,000 Jews in the decades after the creation of Israel. But, surprisingly, Arab leaders from Morocco to Iraq are repeating the message. In February Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, said he would build new synagogues if the country’s Jews returned. His government is restoring the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue in Alexandria (pictured), once the Middle East’s largest. It is also cleaning up the vast Jewish cemetery, flooded with sewage, in southern Cairo. And for the second time under Mr Sisi, Egyptian television has scheduled a soap-opera about Jews to run during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. It tells of a soldier’s steamy affair with a Jewish woman.