Israel offers preview of its pavilion at the World Expo 2020 in Dubai

‘Towards tomorrow’: Israel’s booth at UAE exposition a rare opportunity to showcase Israeli innovation in water technology, health and hi-tech to the Arab World

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A screen shot from a Foreign Ministry video showing a preview of the Israeli pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai (courtesy MFA)
A screen shot from a Foreign Ministry video showing a preview of the Israeli pavilion at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai (courtesy MFA)

Israel recently offered a first taste of its planned pavilion at the Expo 2020 in Dubai, under the headline “Towards tomorrow,” that hopes to showcase Israeli innovation to the Arab World and beyond.

A short clip posted on several of the Foreign Ministry’s social media accounts shows a simulation of the pavilion, which is described as an “icon, hope and aspiration” and appears to focus on Israeli innovation and technology.

The pavilion has “no walls and no borders,” according to the narrator of the short clip. “An open invitation to join hands on the amazing journey forward and to shape our future together.”

Israel’s invitation to the capital of the United Arab Emirates — a country that has no formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state — for the expo was hailed by Israel and others as another sign of warming ties between Jerusalem and the Gulf states. In light of their common enmity to Iran, Israel and the Sunni Arab states have in recent years cooperated clandestinely.

“The Foreign Ministry is pleased to be the leading [government agency] in Israel’s participation in the Dubai Expo, which opens in October 2020 and closes in April 2021,” the Foreign Ministry’s director-general, Yuval Rotem, told The Times of Israel.

“It’s a stage of global importance, on which stage in which Israel has a great deal to contribute,” he added. The Israeli pavilion emphasizes “the spirit of Israeli entrepreneurship and innovation, which has gained many fans around the world,” he said. “Among other things, the Israeli booth will also showcase Israeli innovations and technologies in various fields such as water, medicine and information technologies.”

The pavilion was designed by Tel Aviv-based Knafo Klimor Architects.

The official website of the World Expo features articles about the pavilions of nearly 40 participating countries, including Monaco, Belarus and Turkmenistan, but not Israel.

In April, the Foreign Ministry first announced that Israel will take part in the 2020 World Expo, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing “another expression of Israel’s rising status in the world and the region.”

At the time, the ministry said it welcomed “the opportunity to share our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and to present Israeli innovations and trailblazing technology in various fields such as water, medicine and information technology.”

“Expos are meeting places where people all over the world come together and take advantage of each other’s talents to face joint challenges and advance society,” it said.

The expo, the latest in the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions’ (BIE) “universal expositions,” will see over 190 countries showcase their cultures, innovations and visions for the future.

“We have invited every country in the world without exception,” organizers in Dubai announced, saying it would be “a truly international event.”

“For more than 170 years, World Expos have been apolitical events focused on furthering humanity for the common good through innovation, cultural exchange, creativity and collaboration. We are proud to continue that tradition,” the organizers said in a statement.

Vicente G. Loscertales, head of the BIE, said that “by inviting all countries of the world to take part, including the State of Israel, the organizers of Expo 2020 are genuinely reflecting the universal spirit of World Expos.”

The BIE describes expos, which follow in the tradition of London’s 1851 Great Exhibition, as “large-scale, global events… to educate the public, share innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation.”

Expo 2020, which runs from October 20 next year to April 20, 2021, is set to attract some 25 million visitors to the glitzy emirate, famed for its luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls.

The last World Expo was held in Milan, Italy in 2015. In that exposition, the Israeli pavilion was designed as a giant “vertical field” of wheat, rice and corn. It was intended to showcase Israeli expertise in the drip-irrigation technology that has enabled the cultivation of crops in arid areas around the world after being first developed on a kibbutz in the Negev desert.

Watch a video of the Israeli pavilion in 2015 below

Over the past months, Israel’s backdoor relations with former Arab foes have increasingly entered public view.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev traveled to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi last year for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, and the Israeli national anthem was played for the first time on the Arabian peninsula after Sagi Muki won gold in the under-81 kilogram category.

According to a survey published in October by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, 42 percent of the public in the Emirates is interested in establishing relations with Israel.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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