Jews observed the holiday of Hanukkah (or Chanukah) in public for the first time in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Thursday, following the peace deal between Israel and the UAE under the auspices of U.S. President Donald Trump.
A “lavish” Hanukkah party was thrown at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, on Thursday evening.
Hanukkah is a post-Biblical festival that celebrates the victory of the Jews in ancient Israel over the occupying forces of the Syrian-Greek empire in the second century B.C. Religious Jews fought a rebellion against Hellenization and reclaimed the Holy Temple. Upon reconquering it, they found only enough oil to last for one night, but it miraculously burned for eight.
Traditionally, Jews observe the festival by lighting a menorah, or Chanukkiah, with eight branches, adding one light for each night. (The ninth light is called the Shamash, and serves to ignite the other lights, but is not considered one of them.)
Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that is meant to be observed as publicly as possible. Families are encouraged to light their menorahs near their doorways or windows, for example. But that was not possible in Dubai until very recently.
The Abraham Accords, signed by Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and the U.S. in September, established peace and normalized relations between the Jewish state and its Arab partners. Similar agreements with Sudan and with Morocco soon followed.
Since then, Jews have been traveling to Dubai — to the extent possible under coronavirus restrictions — to enjoy the famed city’s attractions, and to host a variety of communal gatherings, including several boisterous Jewish weddings:
The menorah at the Burj Khalifa was erected by the local Chabad rabbi, part of a campaign of public Chanukah celebrations launched by the late Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Chabad reports an “exploding” number of Israelis in Dubai. Rabbi Levi Duchman has been in the country since 2015, helping to lay the groundwork for what has followed.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.