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Dubai museum, Jerusalem heritage center ink ‘people-to-people’ partnership

Crossroads of Civilizations Museum and Jerusalem’s Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry agree to ‘highlight positive historic relationship between Jews and Arabs’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Representatives from the Jerusalem-based Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry and the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai after signing an MOU on cooperation, December 6, 2020 (courtesy Heritage Center)
Representatives from the Jerusalem-based Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry and the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai after signing an MOU on cooperation, December 6, 2020 (courtesy Heritage Center)

A new Israeli center seeking to highlight the history of Jews in the Islamic world has agreed to cooperate with an Emirati museum on projects highlighting the common history of Jews and Arabs.

A memorandum of understanding was signed Sunday by administrators from the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai and the newly established Jerusalem-based Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry.

According to the document, the institutions seek to “highlight the positive historic relationship between Jews and Arabs, to better understand the culture of the other, to strengthen and highlight the contribution of both peoples to humanity” and to collaborate on projects to create more understanding of each other’s peoples.

In the document, the two centers also stated that they “should teach about what unites Jews and Arabs rather than that which divides us.” It mentions Jerusalem as holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Both centers committed to becoming “hubs of people-to-people cooperation and partnerships,” according to a press release issued by the Heritage Center. “Importantly, both centers will support preservation efforts of historic and archeological sites of importance to both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Sunday evening’s launch event in Dubai was held under the auspices of the International Institute for Tolerance, a quasi-governmental organization established by the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“History is being made at this event and together on the eve of Hanukkah, we can bring light to the whole region. There is no better way of doing this than by reflecting and celebrating our common heritage and culture,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who has been very active in promoting ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, the founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, called the event a “turning point in Arab-Jewish relations.”

The September 15 UAE-Israel normalization agreement paved the way for political and diplomatic ties between the two countries, “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,” he said.

At a panel discussion Sunday evening, the Heritage Center’s Ashley Perry stressed the importance of commemorating the thriving Jewish communities that once existed throughout the Islamic world.

“In the Middle East and North Africa, we have countless Jewish sites without community, and in Israel we have community without memorial or an official institution for the preservation of the history and culture” of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, he said.

“Tonight, we rectify both of these gaps by holding the first-ever event in the Arab world committed to remembering lost Jewish communities and the foundation of building a heritage center” in Jerusalem for Jews from the areas.

“We as a people have a rich and vibrant history in the Middle East and we are excited to be celebrating what we have in common rather than our differences,” said Danny Hakim of the Azrieli Foundation, a philanthropic fund that supports the Heritage Center. “Part of understanding our Jewish history means embracing and appreciating our Jewish heritage in the region.”

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