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‘Very happy to be here’: Israel readies its pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai fair

Israeli zone features ‘sand dunes’ made of concrete ‘that show how similar we are,’ says organizer; 1st time Israel publicly joining such a largescale event in Arab country

People take pictures in the Israel pavilion during a media tour ahead of the opening of the Dubai Expo 2020 in the Gulf Emirate on September 27, 2021 (AFP)
People take pictures in the Israel pavilion during a media tour ahead of the opening of the Dubai Expo 2020 in the Gulf Emirate on September 27, 2021 (AFP)

DUBAI — Israel is gearing up to take part in Expo 2020 Dubai when the world fair opens Friday, a spokesman said, a year after the UAE and the Jewish state normalized ties.

“We’re very happy to be here,” Menachem Gantz told AFP, the spokesman of Israel’s Pavilion at the six-month world fair.

“This is the first time the expo is in the Middle East, and the first time Israel is participating in an event of such a large scale and importance (in an Arab country).”

On September 15 the United Arab Emirates marked one year since normalizing ties with Israel, a move that leaders hope could reap a trillion dollars in trade and business.

Previously, Egypt and Jordan were the only Arab states to have peace agreements under which they recognize Israel, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the deal a “betrayal” of their cause.

After the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan also agreed to normalize ties.

The Israeli pavilion, which includes a large illuminated sign saying “toward tomorrow” using both Arabic and Hebrew — will be open to all.

A visitor takes a selfie with Israeli pavilion official Josh Bendit in front of a sign reading ‘toward tomorrow’ in words written in characters that can be read by both Hebrew and Arabic speakers during a media preview, on September 27 2021 (AFP)

Inside, pathways run between sand dunes made of a thin layer of concrete and sand-colored rubber.

“Our pavilion… is made of things that integrate us, that show how similar we are,” Gantz said.

“The ‘sand’ we’re standing on symbolizes the dunes, and the topography of Israel and the Emirates is very similar to it.”

Visitors are pictured in the Israel pavilion during a media tour ahead of the opening of the Dubai Expo 2020 in the Gulf Emirate on September 27, 2021 (AFP)

The UAE and Israel have sought to emphasize the economic dividend offered by normalization.

The global expo, which Dubai hopes will attract visitors and boost the economy, is set to open its doors to the public on October 1 after a one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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