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DUBAI: Two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the Chief Rabbi of the United Arab Emirates was married on Wednesday at the Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Rabbi Levi Duchman, 29, is married to Lea Hadad, 27, the daughter of Rabbi Menachem Hadad, the Chabad chief rabbi of Brussels.
The event, which deliberately coincided with the second anniversary of the agreements, highlighted the growing presence of Jewish life in the Emirates where, until a few years ago, Jews had to keep their services almost hidden from the public.
About 1,500 guests attended the ceremony, including senior UAE government officials and more than 20 ambassadors from France, Japan, South Korea, Finland and elsewhere. Prominent businessmen, including Emirati entrepreneur Mohamed Alabbar, were also present at the event, along with male and female Catholic priests, reflecting the UAE’s growing commitment to interfaith and coexistence. .
“We are very lucky to be in this great place that is the United Arab Emirates,” Rabbi Levi Banon of Morocco’s Chabad – Duchman’s brother-in-law and emcee for the evening – told chuppah guests. , or wedding canopy.
“We feel your motto of excellence and hospitality. Thank you for making us feel at home.”
Although the exact number of Jews residing in the UAE is unknown, estimates range from 500 to 3,000 or more since the signing of the Abraham Accords. Since normalization, the UAE has welcomed more than 200,000 Jewish tourists, a growing number given the growing number of Israelis and Jews living in the UAE and establishing businesses there.
The welcoming ceremony in Abu Dhabi brought together friends and family from around the world, some making their first trips since the start of the pandemic. During the ceremony, the mothers of the bride and groom “shattered the glass,” Jewish tradition representing goodwill for a lasting marriage between their children.
Hundreds of guests watched the couple unite in marriage in the chuppah, which symbolizes the home they will build together. Emiratis, Israelis, Americans and other nationalities mingled and chatted as they watched the young couple say their vows.
Rabbi Levi, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 2014, is committed to serving the country’s growing Jewish community. Since arriving, he has established communities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including many places of worship, and founded Mini Miracles, the country’s only multilingual kosher nursery and preschool in Dubai’s Jumeirah district. A second branch should open in Abu Dhabi.
He also established a Hebrew Complementary School, a Mikveh for the Jewish Rite of Purification, and the government-sanctioned Kosher Agency, as well as several rabbis in the United Arab Emirates to join him in community service.
He also set up a training program for rabbinical trainees and helped Israeli and Jewish businesses set up in the Emirates following the agreements.
“The couple’s commitment to marry in Abu Dhabi demonstrates their long-term commitment to serving the growing Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates,” said a New York Jew who came for the occasion.
Rabbi Levi was born in Brooklyn and spent two years in Morocco with his sister Chana and her family. It was there that he was inspired to help develop Jewish life in the Arab world.
Her father, Rabbi Sholom Duchman, is the director of Colel Chabad, which was founded in 1788 and is the oldest continuously operating charity in Israel.
Hadad is of Moroccan descent and was born and raised in Belgium. She is the daughter of Chief Rabbi Menahem Hadad. His grandfather started the tradition of emissary work when he established the Chabad community in Milan.
“Rabbi Levi and Lea are the perfect couple,” said Alan Kay, a British Jew who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 11 years.
“The fact that they chose to have their wedding in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a testament to their commitment to the country and to building the Jewish community here.”