By YAAKOV KATZ
December 17, 2020
Does our government invest even a fraction of what it invests in peace with Arab states in the reconciliation that is needed between Israelis and the different sectors that make up this country?
A few weeks ago, three luxury cars pulled up alongside the beach promenade in central Tel Aviv – a Porsche, an Audi, and a third sports car. Inside, the men were wearing what looked like the traditional Emirati Kandura robes and Ghutra headscarves, while the car speakers were booming some of the latest Arab music hits in the United Arab Emirates.
Israelis stood by in awe. Some asked for pictures. At one point it grew into a line of people wanting a selfie with the visitors from the UAE.
Someone took a video of the group, which immediately went viral. But these were not tourists from the UAE, Israel’s new peace partner in the Middle East. These were Arab-Israelis from the town of Kafr Kassem just a 30-minute drive away. It was all a prank.
I thought of the group from Kafr Kassem this past week during my first visit to Dubai. I went there for two days of meetings with our new partners from the Khaleej Times, ahead of two conferences we are planning together in January and February.
It is hard as an Israeli not to be moved when walking the streets of Dubai, sitting in coffee shops or meeting in restaurants. I sat at an outdoor cafe for a meeting on Monday; at the table next to me was an Emirati couple, at the table behind was a Muslim family from Africa and sitting around the table in front of me was a Muslim family from somewhere in Asia.
In the hotel lobbies, Emirati men speaking Arabic walked past Israeli children wearing kippot. Hebrew could be heard all over downtown, where tens of thousands of Israelis had descended as part of the flood of tourists coming to one of the only “green” countries left to visit.
It was moving for me, because as an Israeli journalist, I finally had the opportunity to visit a country that I had written about countless times, albeit from the abstract perspective of what I was told by Israeli, American or even Emirati officials in Europe or the US.