Israeli, Emirati women believe future lies in peace through economic development

November 19, 2021

By Dan Lave

Leading female figures in Israel and the UAE say the shared desire for peaceful coexistence and the prosperity of both nations should "serve and an example" to the world.

The familiar and historical tension between Jerusalem and Babylon sometimes takes on a new twist in which the non-Jewish culture doesn't represent a challenge but the two elements complement one another. Take, for example, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who is currently running for the position of Jewish Agency chair, and is clarifying her approach to the Jewish communities in the Gulf. "Israel and the Diaspora need one another," she says in a conversation with Israel Hayom, "these are symbiotic relationships. We are one people, and Jewish communities have contributed a lot in each country they have lived."

As one of the founders of the UAE-Israel Business Council (together with the entrepreneur Dorian Barak), even before the Abraham Accords, and the Gulf Israel Women's Forum, Hassan-Nahoum notes that "in relation to the Gulf, the 'relocation' of many Israelis is expected, and Jews are expected to come from a range of places, including the United States, France, Britain, and more. Just a year ago, on Simchat Torah, I visited there and I saw Emiratis coming to the prayers because it interested them. They were extremely curious about Judaism, which they see as the source of Islam."

Hassan-Nahoum, who was born in Gibraltar and has Sephardi roots, made aliyah 20 years ago and lives in Jerusalem, enthusiastically describes her childhood surroundings. "I was raised with the understanding that Jews and Arabs are cousins. I am a big believer in peace through economic development."

This hints at her current work to improve the situation of Arabs in East Jerusalem, in the framework of her role as Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, where she is responsible for the city's external relations, economic development, and tourism. In relation to technology, for example, "the pleasure for me is to show their integration, and especially platforms where people can find a variety of businesses and create a business community. I am explicitly looking for the connection with Jerusalemite Arabs, who make up 37 percent of the population of the city. We have to incorporate them into the "Start-Up Nation" so that everyone will feel at home in the city."

On the formation of the business interface with the Emirates, Hassan-Nahoum says, "We built a 'board' with people from here and from there. Something independent, not governmental. We did a webinar on a basic question – how to create businesses in the UAE? We noticed a lot of interest in the subject, and with time it took on a life of its own. In the most direct way, while on flights I have met many Arab-Israeli business people who work in the Gulf. They tell me, directly, that following the agreements everything is much easier for them practically, and it of course makes me very happy.

"Essentially, with the proclamation of the Abraham Accords we already had a business council under the radar, so in practice we established an online forum and today we have around 4,000 registrations for the platform on different subjects [tourism, cyber, fintech, and more]. "As someone from Jerusalem, a city with a 3,000-year history, there is no reason why we shouldn't aspire for a future in which the Gulf states will see the possibility of cooperation as natural and harmonious."

Entrepreneur Alanoud Alhashmi, an Emirati consultant in the fields of business, innovation and media in Dubai for 15 years, emphasizes her natural relationship with the Jewish community. "There was never conflict, but at the same time it's important to welcome the first step," she declares. "I like the sincerity of the Jews, the way that it makes it easier to become attached to them, and the Abraham Accords have tightened my relations with them. I have already been at a bar mitzvah, at Lag Ba'Omer, at Sukkot and other festivals, and I really enjoyed our time together. I saw that what we have in common is far greater than what divides us. From my perspective, every prophet in the Jewish religion is also a prophet for me."

These two influential women with a pluralistic approach who use their influence to express a clear message of empowering women, look at the future from an inclusive perspective. Hassan-Nahoum notes: "As of today the Emiratis are already beginning to see 'the Israeli' – both as a Jew and as an Arab. They see that the Israelis want to advance Arab society and they are internalizing it. This is not a trivial matter, since now they are helping us and, on the other hand, they see the problems that arise from the Palestinians."

According to her, the mutual acquaintance also changes the perspective of many of the Jews in Israel in relation to Arab-Israelis themselves, after not attributing much importance to them for many years. "Under the auspices of the Abraham Accords, the [Jewish] Israelis discovered the Arab Israelis and received the "license" to be OK with them. In practice, a sort of local Abraham Accords has been created.

"It definitely changed the dynamic – the Arab world lives in peace with us. Many people who were against cooperating with Arabs want to be part of it. It's against this background that we need to look at the riots in Israel in May. Hamas was on the sidelines since the Palestinians were no longer relevant and caused this unrest. The riots were born as a response not only to the normalization of the Abraham Accords but also because of the normalization of relations between the two societies inside Israel."

In looking to the future, Alhashmi, as the founder and CEO of The Futurist Company, places an emphasis on the cultural diversity of the region. "In the UAE alone, there are more than 200 nations, and it's already comfortable for Jews to change existing perceptions and to have influence. We are strong when we are together when the background of each person is interesting in itself.

"Far beyond the vision of 'the Jews and the Muslims,' our next challenges are the problems of the environment and food and water security, and we will only succeed if we all unite in dealing with them. We have to think, first of all, about humanity and only afterward about entrepreneurship, business and more. Coexistence and the mutual desire for stability and prosperity – which, a year after the start of official relations, is now clearer than ever – needs to be a message to the entire world: to focus on shared values. Otherwise, we will literally endanger human existence,” she concludes.

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