UAE’s Jewish community prepares to welcome thousands for Passover celebrations

Outside a cafe on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah reads a sign: “It is Passover, and we are going Matzah crazy.”

Today, in the UAE, a small but thriving Jewish community is gearing up to celebrate the eight-day festival that starts on Wednesday.

Following the 2020 signing of the Abraham Accords, the historic agreement that established relations between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, and later Morocco, many Jews have chosen to call the UAE home and start businesses.
Today, you can find an official synagogue, a Jewish nursery, kosher supermarkets and a community centre in the Emirates.
Thousands of Jews are expected to travel to the UAE to celebrate Passover — the holiday that celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. They feel safe wearing the yarmulke and the community has become part of the UAE’s ethnic mosaic.

“Celebrating Passover in Dubai is always very powerful and has a kind of added relevance to it because it is a festival of spiritual freedom,” said Ross Kriel, one of the founders of the Jewish community in the UAE.

“For us, to be able to celebrate that festival in Dubai as Jews in a flourishing community that is embraced by the leadership of the UAE and the people of UAE is very, very beautiful and profound for us.”

Mr Kriel moved to the UAE about a decade ago from South Africa and, during his time here, he has seen the community grow.

No official data is available but he puts current numbers in the thousands.

“In the past five years, I would say the community has tripled in size. That’s a fair guess to make,” he said.