A delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain participated in a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem last night, reported the Times of Israel.
Before the ceremony took place, Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch welcomed and praised the delegations for celebrating along with Israelis.
“It is a Hanukkah miracle to see the delegation from the UAE and Bahrain here with us participating in the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony,” he said. “Who would have believed that peace would come to our house in such a magnificent way?”
The group at the ceremony was made up of social activists from the Gulf countries, visiting Israel as part of the Sharaka Project – the “Cooperation Project ” that aims to create ties between young people in Israel and Arab states.
This move by the Arab delegations follows the normalisation of relations with Israel, in a deal brokered by the US.
Also present at the event were Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar and Director General of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation Mordechai Eliav.
Rabbi Amar said: “This lighting unites all the people of Israel. Take a good look at the flames, despite all its shades and colors – it is one. One that rises and illuminates and lights up spontaneously. We the people of Israel are made up of tribes and different communities, and that is our strength.”
On Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin hosted the delegation at his residence in Jerusalem, where he told them: “Your visit here is another step in the path of building warm relations between our countries. I wish you a successful visit and I am glad to meet you here in Jerusalem.”
According to a statement from the Israeli president’s office, Dr Majid a-Sarah from the University of Dubai, one of the leaders of the delegation, replied: “To visit Israel for the first time as part of a delegation is a historic moment. Israel is a prime example of tolerance in the region. This is a new era of peace and stability between peoples.”