Amir Hayek, Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, led a ceremony to commemorate Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening.
It was the first official Memorial Day ceremony to be held in an Arab state. The ceremony included the recitation of a number of traditional Jewish memorial prayers, including Yizkor and Kaddish.
Speaking at the event, Hayek affirmed Israel’s goal of working with the UAE, and all those who “strive for peace and strive for a better world.”
“Here, in Abu Dhabi, we bow our heads and we honor those whose deaths have allowed us to live. Here, we swear to take care of the coming generations for a better future.We will continue to remember the fallen and care for the wounded and their families,” he said.
Speaking to radio 103FM on Wednesday morning, Hayek said he was overcome with emotion during the ceremony. “I do not remember a speech in which I stopped so many times to digest, and to wipe away tears of sadness, hope and emotion,” he said.
Hayek said the ceremony was an internal Israeli event held in Hebrew, in order to “remember and to understand where we are, and how we can continue to strive for peace so that there will be no more cases of slaughter.”
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“I think we need to work step by step. A mother whose son was killed, no matter if she is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, hurts everyone,” he explained.
The ceremony comes against a backdrop of flourishing official ties between Israel and some Arab countries.
The Abraham Accords, a joint peace declaration initially signed on September 15, 2020, officially normalized diplomatic relations between Bahrain, the UAE and Israel. In December 2020, Morocco and Israel inked a normalization agreement, establishing full diplomatic relations. Then, in January 2021, Sudan signed on to the accords, symbolically declaring its intention to advance normalization with Israel.
Last year marked the first time a ceremony for Yom Hashoah, Israel’s official Holocaust remembrance day, was observed in an Arab country.
The ceremony, held in Dubai, was a joint initiative by ISRAEL-is, an organization that aims to improve Israel’s global image, and Together — Vouch for each other, an organization that aims to integrate Arab Israelis into Israeli society. The event featured Louis Ali, an Israeli Druze singer, and was attended by pro-Israel influencers.