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UAE: Gulf’s 1st purpose-built synagogue in 100 years to open in Abu Dhabi  

February 20, 2023 at 11:42 am

Abrahamic Family House complex in Abu Dhabi [abrahamicfh/Twitter]

The Gulf region’s first purpose-built synagogue is to open to the public later this week on 1 March and will be aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue in the country.

The Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue is part of the multi-faith Abrahamic Family House complex in Abu Dhabi which also includes a mosque and a church. On Thursday the synagogue was inaugurated and British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis affixed a mezuzah (Jewish doorpost) to the entrance and tweeted “the first purpose-built synagogue in the Arab world for nearly a century”.

In a statement on Friday, the institution’s President Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak said: “The center will be a platform for learning and dialogue, a model of coexistence.”

“Visitors are invited to participate in religious services, guided tours, celebrations and opportunities to explore faith,” he added.

The UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed, also declared that the Abrahamic Family House “embodies the UAE’s values of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence”.

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Yesterday, the synagogue held its first afternoon prayer and a Torah scroll was gifted to the Jewish community by President Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. This Friday, UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna will lead the first Shabbat prayers. The Catholic community’s first Sunday service was also held yesterday at His Holiness Francis Church by Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald.

The initiative was inspired by the principles set out by the Document on Human Fraternity, which was signed in the emirate by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, whom the site’s mosque is named after. Friday also saw the mosque’s first Jumma prayers.

Prior to the synagogue’s opening, the UAE’s small Jewish community held prayers in private, and until now, neighbouring Bahrain was home to the region’s only synagogue. In a statement, the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities praised the UAE for the move.

“We are particularly excited to see another synagogue built in the GCC,” the statement said. “There is something very special about a synagogue being built in a Muslim country.”