Israeli families move businesses and homes to Dubai, ‘the safest place in the world’

A small but growing Jewish community now lives in Dubai.

After the signing of the Abraham Accords, hundreds of Jewish families moved into the country, setting up businesses, enrolling their children in school and praying in a community center that doubles as a small synagogue.

The promise of new business opportunities and the sense of security enjoyed by women in the UAE has eased the transition, community members say, and they are preparing to welcome even more families.

The quality of life is absolutely different. Life is sweeter, more relaxed, slower

Kelly Masliah, member of the Jewish community

The brilliance of the diamond trade

It made perfect sense for Adi Zamir, who runs a diamond and jewelry business in the town of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, to move to Dubai after the deals were signed in September 2022.

The shift of power centers from Antwerp in Belgium, a traditional hub of the diamond trade, to Dubai influenced his decision.

“It looks like this [Dubai] will be the center of the diamond trade in the world instead of Belgium,” he said.

“So I decided this was the best place and I would do my business here, then I brought my family.”

Mr Zamir, 51, works in the rough diamond business and previously spent most weeks flying from Israel to India to meet clients. Living in Dubai has made life easier as its clients often travel to the Emirates for work and vacation.

His decision came even before authorities at the Dubai Multi Commodities Center confirmed that the United Arab Emirates had overtaken Belgium in 2021 to become the main hub for the trade in rough diamonds.

India cuts or polishes about 90% of the world’s diamonds.

“Most of my clients are Indian, most of the diamond business is in India, so I have to be close to India. My clients have no problem coming to Dubai as India is a three hour flight away,” he said.

Sunny skies and a business-friendly atmosphere are a plus.

“The weather is nice most of the time. The working conditions are good and I am impressed with the DMCC. You come here and you are welcome,” he said.

And more and more Israeli tourists have come to explore the country over the past year.

“At the beginning, in Israel, people were afraid, especially people who had never been here. They said, why would you go to an Arab-Muslim country? he said.

“That changed very quickly because Israelis like to travel. People now understand that it is a very safe place, there is no reason to be afraid. There are many attractions and it’s a fun place for tourists so lately people don’t ask me anymore.”

Her two eldest live in Israel and her youngest daughters go to school in Dubai.

They join others for Shabbat prayers at a villa in Dubai on Friday and travel with families to Fujairah and Abu Dhabi to explore the country.

Mr Zamir said he was not worried when his teenage daughters and his wife took taxis at night.

“Dubai is open to everyone. There is a feeling of security. This is the most important for everyone,” he said.

“It’s the safest place in the world, as far as I know.

“Believe me, with my two daughters, I think this is the safest place in the world.”

“Life is sweet, relaxed, slow”

For Kelly Masliah, 31, who was born and raised in Paris, the deals gave her family the chance to move to a new country.

She had traveled with her husband, a tax consultant, to Dubai several times on vacation, and had been impressed by what she had said.

“After Covid, we wanted to experience another city,” she said.

“We have been to Dubai three times on holiday and really liked the city.

“The agreements make us very happy because they helped us come here.”

She talked about the relaxed vibe of Dubai and how people are always ready to help in supermarkets or restaurants.

“The quality of life is absolutely different. Time makes everything better. Children can play outside every day,” she said.

“And you get good service. In grocery stores, and in restaurants, they serve you quickly and they have a smile.

Parisians Kelly and Roy Masliah with their children in their home in Dubai.  The support of a growing community of Jews in the United Arab Emirates was key to their decision to leave France.  Antonie Robertson / The National

“In Paris, when you go out, you tell yourself that it shouldn’t be too late because of the next day’s work.

“When you have an event in Dubai you really enjoy it, everyone is relaxed.

“Life is sweeter, more relaxed here, slower here.”

Her husband leads a tax advisory team in France from Dubai.

Their children attend a Jewish crèche and a French-English bilingual school in Dubai.

Before moving, Ms Masliah called the Jewish center at a villa in Al Wasl and inquired about the small but growing community.

“It was important to find people like us in a country where we don’t know anyone,” she said.

“As Jews, we feel very safe. I know that the local population respects the Jewish people.

“When we have celebrations, they respect and understand that we have our services and our prayers.”

Visiting relatives and friends realize that asking them to come back is futile.

“Our family said – enjoy but come back in a year. But now we’ve told them we’re enjoying it too much,” she said.

“I hope the community will grow more and more. I love this life. I hope to stay here for a long time.

Of the whole world

Levi Duchman, the first resident chief rabbi of the United Arab Emirates, said Jews from more than 15 countries, including Argentina, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia and Israel, now live in the United Arab Emirates.

“We expect to welcome thousands of new families who will settle here over the next 10 years,” he said.

“Being the first rabbi here, it is important to me that families live in the UAE where there is a culture of tolerance and coexistence.”

The community is working with Dubai authorities to identify a location for a permanent synagogue.

Rabbi Duchman said it was “comforting” to know the community was welcome.

“When I came here eight years ago, people asked me what I was trying to accomplish,” he said.

“Today there is such a warm relationship where people work together, live with each other, support each other, build projects together.

“That’s how you can see the huge success of the Abraham Accords.”

Updated: September 15, 2022, 05:23

Comments are closed.