Thousands of Israeli tourists flock to Dubai for Hannukah. 'Emirati people are very hospitable to us,' says rabbi.

  • In August, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic peace deal that normalized ties between the two nations.
  • For the first time, there are direct flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv.
  • Airlines have struggled to keep up with the demand for flights between the two cities.
  • Businesses are being set up at a rapid pace in Dubai to cater to the new Israeli audience.
  • Despite security concerns, Israeli tourists report that they feel safe and welcomed in the Emirati city.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It's long been known for its towering skyscrapers, high-end hotels, and mammoth shopping malls. 

But now, just months after the signing of a ground-breaking peace deal, Dubai is set to add synagogues, kosher restaurants, and a Jewish school into the mix.

Ever since the Abraham Accords were announced in August – a historic deal that normalized ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel – Israeli tourists have flocked to the desert nation in unprecedented numbers.

The introduction of easily attainable tourist visas, the existence of a Coronavirus travel corridor, and a boom in kosher provisions have all made Dubai the must-visit hotspot for Israeli tourists.

So much so that airlines have struggled to keep up with demand.

FlyDubai, one of only four airlines that now provides direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai, told Business Insider that they've had to double the number of daily journeys since their inaugural voyage in late November. They now offer four-passenger flights a day.

Before normalization, traveling directly between the two nations wasn't possible. Now, there are at least 28 flights a week. The journey time is three hours. According to The Jerusalem Post, these flights are filled to the brim with tourists.

One of these jet setters, Tel Aviv-based blogger Nadav Slom, recently returned from a 10 day trip to Dubai. He jumped on the opportunity to visit as soon as it became viable for Israeli tourists.

He told Business Insider: "You're seeing thousands of Israelis going to Dubai every day with these new direct flights. Now, my entire Instagram feed is filled with Israelis posting pictures of their trips there."

Slom continued: "I think Israelis have always wanted to go there because it was like the forbidden fruit. Now, given that there's no need to quarantine after and there's an easy flight direct, Dubai is and is going to remain as a tourist hotspot for Israelis."

A post shared by Slom Travels | Vlogger ✈️ (@_nadavslom)

 

'It kind of feels like a gold rush'

In recent weeks, Dubai has benefited from being a 'green' country for Israelis. Visitors are not required to self-isolate upon returning from their trips. That, combined with it being the holiday season – Hanukkah – has resulted in a rush of tourists visiting the city.

In response to the sudden influx of Israeli tourists, businesses have moved extraordinarily quickly to cater to clients, most of whom are Jewish.

Armani/Kaf, a kosher restaurant in the iconic Burj Khalifa, opened only three weeks after the peace deal was announced. Similarly, 1070 Kitchen – a company that supplies hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions with kosher food – has just been set up.

Besides the sudden availability of kosher food, other amenities aimed at a Jewish audience are being introduced. The first-ever Jewish school will be opened in Dubai early next year, according to ynet news.

Dubai has had a small Jewish community for nearly two decades. This year, however, it has ballooned in number. Rabbi Levi Duchman, the UAE's resident rabbi, expects the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah – celebrated this week –  will be "very different" to other years.

He told Business Insider: "This year, we will have much larger crowds coming to celebrate from Israel and all over the world."

Duchman believes that the community will only grow larger as more Israelis see the "unbelievable" business opportunities afforded by the peace deal.

"It kind of feels like a gold rush. People are coming in from all over trying to see where the chips fall," he said.

According to Israeli estimates, trade with the UAE could eventually total $4 billion and create 15,000 new jobs.

The so-called 'gold rush' is attracting business people from Israel to set up shop in Dubai in the hope of capitalizing on this new economic opportunity.

David Walles, the owner of KosherTravelers.com, opened a branch of his travel agency in Dubai last month. The agency, which caters to an Orthodox Jewish audience, is currently overwhelmed by requests for kosher package holidays, tours, and weddings.

Walles has been astonished by the speed at which Israeli businesses have been set up in the UAE. He told Business Insider: "It's been a rollercoaster ride since normalization and everything has gone at a rapid pace. I can't even begin to describe it."

The businessman has an extremely optimistic outlook on the future, given how busy Dubai has been in recent weeks.

"There are literally hundreds of Israelis here," Walles said. "I'm hearing Hebrew on the streets, Hebrew by the pools, Hebrew by all the main attractions."

'I felt safer there than walking in the streets of Paris or London'

Despite the rosy picture painted by those on the ground, there have been teething problems.

Two hundred Israeli travelers were denied entry this week due to issues with new visa regulations. It was only resolved after an intervention by Israel's foreign ministry, The Times of Israel reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Israelis to avoid traveling to the UAE.

Following the death of an Iranian nuclear scientist, Netanyahu has expressed concern that Israeli travelers might become victims of Iranian attacks. Regardless, Israeli tourists in Dubai don't seem to share that concern.

Nadav Slom, the travel blogger who has just returned from the trip, told Business Insider: "I felt absolutely safe as an Israeli. To be honest, I felt safer there than walking in the streets of Paris or London."

Rabbi Duchman agreed. He said: "Emirati people are very hospitable to us. The only concern for Jewish residents and visitors is the hot summer sun."

On Thursday, Trump announced that Morocco had become the latest country to normalize ties with Israel.

It is yet to be seen whether the North African nation will follow suit in becoming a hotspot for Israeli holiday-makers.

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