UAE reveals progress on interfaith complex to house synagogue, mosque, church

Government announces name of Jewish place of worship at Abrahamic Family House, slated to be completed in Abu Dhabi in 2022: the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A photo showing 20% of construction complete in June 2021 at the future site of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi. (Abu Dhabi Government Media Office)
A photo showing 20% of construction complete in June 2021 at the future site of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi. (Abu Dhabi Government Media Office)

Construction on the Abrahamic Family House, a complex in Abu Dhabi slated to house a synagogue, a mosque and a church, is 20 percent complete, Emirati officials revealed on Tuesday.

The government also announced that the synagogue at the site will be named the “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue” after the 12th century philosopher and rabbinical scholar Maimonides. The mosque will be named “Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque,” and the church “St. Francis Church.”

“The Abrahamic Family House epitomizes interfaith harmonious coexistence and preserves the unique character of each religion,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi and a member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

“The naming of the three houses of worship recognizes the work of His Eminence Grand Imam Al Tayeb, His Holiness Pope Francis, and Moses Ben Maimon, and harnesses their teachings to forge a message of goodwill for future generations around the world,” Mubarak said.

Maimonides (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)
Maimonides (photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

The three-building complex was designed by architect David Adjaye, and “captures the values shared between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” as well as “innovatively recounts the history and builds bridges between human civilizations and heavenly messages,” according to the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office.

Adjaye has said that visitors to each house of worship will have “the opportunity to observe religious services, listen to holy scripture, and experience sacred rituals” while a fourth, unaffiliated space “will serve as a center for all people of goodwill to come together as one.”

Plans for the Abrahamic House were first announced in 2019 — more than a year before the establishment of the Abraham Accords normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The accords have been credited with encouraging the emergence of Jewish life in the UAE, which used to operate largely beneath the radar. Since the accords were signed in August 2020, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists have visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The announcement of the Abrahamic Family House was made during the UAE’s self-proclaimed “Year of Tolerance,” during a meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

An artistic rendering of the future Abrahamic Family House complex in Abu Dhabi. (Abu Dhabi Government Media Office)

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig is a member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which is the body overseeing the construction of the complex. Lustig, the senior rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in the US capital, is the only Jewish member of the committee.

The Abrahamic Family House is slated to be completed in 2022. The government noted that during the design and construction of the complex, “members of religious communities worldwide have been engaged and consulted to ensure consistency with and adherence to the respective religion’s requirements and teaching.”

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