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Israeli, UAE envoys to NY light Hanukkah candles against backdrop of deals

Diplomats express wishes that recently signed Abraham Accords will ‘light up’ region with hope and prosperity

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

(From L-R) East End Temple Rabbi Joshua Stanton, Israel New York Acting Consul General Israel Nitzan, JCRC-NY CEO Michael Miller, UAE New York Consul General Abdalla Shaheen, Cordoba House executive director Naz Ahmed Georga and Manhattan Borough president Gayle Brewer light Hanukkah candles in Manhattan on December 14, 2020. (Shahar Azran)
(From L-R) East End Temple Rabbi Joshua Stanton, Israel New York Acting Consul General Israel Nitzan, JCRC-NY CEO Michael Miller, UAE New York Consul General Abdalla Shaheen, Cordoba House executive director Naz Ahmed Georga and Manhattan Borough president Gayle Brewer light Hanukkah candles in Manhattan on December 14, 2020. (Shahar Azran)

NEW YORK — Israel’s consul general in New York hosted his Emirati counterpart for a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony Monday night in the latest example of the two countries’ warming relations against the backdrop of the Abraham Accords.

Acting Consul General Israel Nitzan and United Arab Emirates Consul General Abdalla Shaheen marked the fifth night of Hanukkah along with just over a dozen Jewish and Muslim community leaders, who huddled together on the 31st-floor balcony of an office building in Midtown Manhattan.

“Despite the difficulties of the past year, Hanukkah offers lessons of the triumph of hope over despair, of light over darkness,” said Nitzan, connecting the holiday to the normalization agreements Israel signed with the UAE and Bahrain in September. “The Abraham Accords are a victory of the light over despair in our region.”

“This is the first Hanukkah celebration that [we’ve] attended, and I certainly hope it’s not our last,” said Shaheen, who brought his 6-year-old daughter to help light the Hanukkah candles with him.

“I am hopeful that the momentum and the energy of these new peace agreements will continue to strengthen the relations between our countries, our people and our cultures,” he said.

Also offering brief remarks were Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer, JCRC-NY CEO Michael Miller, Rabbi Joshua Stanton from the East End Temple and Naz Ahmed Georgas of the Cordoba House Islamic center.

Toward the conclusion of short ceremony, Nitzan presented Shaheen’s daughter with a toy truck as a Hanukkah gift.

It was the second such event in days that brought together representatives of Abraham Accords member states.

On Saturday night, the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to the US joined a virtual Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony hosted by Israel’s Embassy in Washington.

Morocco last Thursday became the fourth Arab state this year, after the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, to announce it had agreed to normalize relations with Israel. US President Donald Trump in turn fulfilled a decades-old goal of Morocco by backing its contested sovereignty in Western Sahara.

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