In his first interview, the head of the U.A.E. Jewish community said over 2,000 Jews live in the Gulf states conducting a robust Jewish life.
Solly Wolf who moved to Dubai from London in 2,000 in pursuit of his business interests, told of the community's daily life, which was mostly under the radar until recently, and the special ties forged with the country's leadership and Muslim neighbors.
"For the past five years, we have had our Rabbi, Levi Duchman, originally from the U.S. that sees to the religious needs of the community in the principalities such kosher meat which is now slaughtered locally and Mattza on Passover. On Fridays he supplies Challa and wine for the blessing and speaks of the weekly Torah portion," he said.
The Kosher butchering can supply 1,000 chickens every week, enough for the needs of the community, and today you can find kosher food in most local supermarkets including Gefilte fish and haroset.
"I wish on all Jewish communities around the world what we have," Wolf said, "The Rabbi is an incredible young man who is loved by everyone."
The rabbi teaches the Jewish kids as well, "It is very moving to see the children singing the Passover songs and learning the weekly Torah portion," Wolf said.
"We have 45 children studying at our Talmud Torah (Jewish educational institution) and praying where once we were obliged to hide our identity." He said.
Wolf said he feels safe being Jewish and preserving his Jewish identity. He said the community even has the authority's permission to use wine in a Muslim country because it is a part of the Jewish worship and tradition.
"There is no hostility towards us from the government or the people," he said, "the leadership looks out for us and our needs. I've been here over 18 years and have never felt any hostility though everyone knows I am a Jew. We are accepted as we are," he said.
Wolf said a new synagogue is being built scheduled for completion in 2022 in Abu Dhabi, which will be part of a complex housing a mosque and a church as well.
He described the relations with the local population as good, "people are very friendly, they see us as cousins, as people who have lived together for thousands of years, I can assure you many here would like to see more Jews doing business in the Emirates they know there are good businessmen, doctors, and accountants who are Jewish and would be welcomed here."
Wolf believes diplomatic relations between Israel and the U.A. E. is not a farfetched idea, "I am sure there are discussions going on, the leaders of the Emirates are clever people and highly capable and they say the Jewish people are full of potential that is why you can already see many Jewish tourists visiting."
Before the coronavirus pandemic, many Israeli passport holders were hoping to attend the 2020 Expo in Dubai, "There was talk that diplomatic relations would be announced after the Expo," Wolf said.
"Most Jews living here are in finance or own their own businesses," he said, "We do not meet on a daily basis but get together on Friday, we visit each other and when our new synagogue will be opened we will be there for prayer together," he said promising there would be room for any visitors after the Jewish New Year. "We even have a Sukka that could accommodate up to 250 people at a time and can provide for anyone with any religious requirement," he said.
The Synagogue in "one of Dubai's best neighborhoods," Wolf said, "from the outside, it will seem like a structure that was built hundreds of years ago in an Italian or Spanish style. We have two synagogues already but the opening ceremony for the newer one was delayed because of the coronavirus. We are renovating it to make it elegant and grand," he said explaining that like everything in Dubai it will be of the best quality and will inspire awe.
Wolf has close ties with the local leadership, "I know the leaders personally and if there is any problem, I can approach them directly. Many Jews around the world are fearful of coming here but this is a safe place in which you can walk around with thousands of dollars on your person in complete confidence."
"I am sure many Israelis would like to come here because Dubai is a beautiful place and a center of tourism and business. Unfortunately, because of the diplomatic question people cannot travel here freely but I am sure this will change, and Israelis will be able to come freely," he said.