“There will be direct flights from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi and back. It’s a short, three-hour trip, like Rome,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this past Monday to Haaretz. Netanyahu didn’t have to sell the idea too much, because the moment Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced they were establishing diplomatic relations, many Israelis were already dreaming about a vacation in Dubai.
In November of 2008, I traveled to the UAE with my MamaDonna and a close friend. We planned a girls’ trip to attend the International Jewelry Show in Dubai. We were duly warned about security issues, modesty restraints, and even midday sandstorms, but we were not equipped for the exaggerated opulence we were about to explore.
Simply put, Dubai is Vegas on steroids, already in our senses with the flight on Emirates Airlines to the outrageous skyline we observed from our plane. The showers on the plane for economy travelers then – and shape-shifting architecture – were just the beginning of the journey. When anyone asks me to try to describe the region in one sentence, I always reply, “I still can’t wrap my head around the air conditioning units that rise from the sand to cool you on your beach lounge chair.” The attention to comfort is almost comical in nature and completely man-made.
Skiing in a life-size snow globe in the middle of the largest luxury mall in the world paled in comparison to The Jewelry Show at the Dubai Convention Center. The sea of black burkas wrist-pumping priceless crocodile Hermès Kelly bags was just a warning that uber-luxury was the most important calling card for this crowd of attendees. As I strolled around the booths surveying the baubles being salivated over, I noticed a big crowd gathering at one particular vendor: Tutti-Frutti from Italy. They displayed a candy store of fanciful, multicolored earrings in all shapes and sizes from small to outrageous. Since my appetite goes for big earrings, I grabbed a pair of carved white mother of pearl with ruby and diamond clasps that were about three inches in length. At my side was a woman complete with the black uniform, bag, and diamond Rolex. She grabbed the same pair as me, as her mother-in-law stood close guard. I immediately asked her, “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful but where in the world do you wear these earrings if you are always covered up from head to toe?!” My MamaDonna laughed at this encounter as the young woman grabbed her cell phone (iPhone 100!) and started to show me pictures of her without the burka. I was shocked and we started a great conversation. Turns out there are “girl parties” at the separate country clubs where the women show off their jewelry, along with everything else. She invited “us girls” to attend and see for ourselves. Needless to say, her mother-in-law was getting quite agitated at our delightful girlie chatter. Oh, I forgot to tell you that the “shvigger” (mother-in-law) was sporting a solid-gold face piece that exuded nothing but respect and reverence. Over the years, I’ve shared that story so many times as an example of common ground between women no matter what their background. Girls will be girls.
The peace arrangement between Israel and the UAE is all about the common ground. Whether it’s a common enemy or a common goal, the results will be nothing short of miraculous.
Israel needs the boost to their frozen economy and the UAE needs to no longer camouflage their business alliances with Israel. The exchange of tourism alone has been met with great excitement. Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer the greatest hospitality I’ve ever encountered. As a uniformed man serves you fresh figs upon entry to any hotel, you can easily faint as you see the exotic multimillion-dollar cars line up in the check-in area. The palm-shaped island resorts, the Burj Al Arab, or the pyramid of Hotel Raffles Dubai are among the most exclusive resorts in the world. To my delight, I started to see on social media outlets how excited the people of UAE are to visit Israel, the original miracle of the desert – the country that is now enjoying the finest hotels, culture, and cuisine.
There’s more to this pairing than the gashmiyus and frivolous aspects that I’m referring to. More important arenas are salinization, medicine, technology, agriculture, art, education, infrastructure, and, best of all, acknowledgement of existence despite the rest of the world’s opinion.
I looked up the meaning of peace, shalom, on Wikipedia. The meaning is not only peace but harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. This appears to be exactly what’s to be achieved between Israel and the UAE, even if I just witnessed it myself with a great pair of earrings.
P.S. There are three synagogues, a kosher caterer, and a kosher restaurant in the UAE.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.