United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab was invited by Jewish community leader and Belgian federal Member of Parliament Michael Freilich to visit a number of unique Jewish hotspots in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, also sometimes referred to as “the Jerusalem of the North.”
During his visit, the Ambassador met various leaders including those of the Forum of Jewish Organisations, the communities of Machsike and Shomre Hadas, the Belzer Chassidim and Hatzoloh.
The visit started with a tour of the Romi Goldmuntz Synagoge, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony and a moment of silence in front of the Holocaust Memorial monument, commemorating the more than 25.000 Jews deported from Belgium during World War II.
At the Belz synagogue, the Ambassador was given more information about Jewish customs such as those of the daily prayers and the tefilin (phylacteries) worn during the morning prayer. This was followed by a traditional kosher and halal lunch at the famous Hoffy’s restaurant.
The final meeting of the day was a visit to the Machsikei Hadas offices, where the Ambassador discussed issues of mutual importance to both observant Jews and Muslims regarding their traditions and the need to protect freedom of religion for all.
Ambassador Abushahab said: “Thanks to Michael Freilich’s kind invitation, I had the opportunity not only to engage in constructive dialogue with the Jewish community of Antwerp, but also to visit the city’s Holocaust Memorial. Remembering the gravest crimes in history is important in the fight against discrimination, hate and extremism. Through interfaith dialogue, we can help grow a culture of peace.”
“I was delighted to meet with members of Antwerp’s Jewish community. The UAE will continue to champion religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue both at home and abroad, and my visit to Antwerp was in the spirit of building stronger bonds with Antwerp’s ancient Jewish community.”
“The Abraham Accords, signed last year between Israel and a number of Arab states, will not only have an effect in the Middle-East, but also foster closer bonds between those nations and Jewish communities around the world,” MP Michael Freilich said. “The fact that kosher food options are now being offered in Dubai and elsewhere also means that the UAE can expect to see an inflow of Jewish visitors, tourists and businessmen alike, from around the globe. This is a major milestone.”
Freilich added: “The UAE held a first digital memorial for the Holocaust a few months ago. I am glad that we were able to continue remembering those taken away from us. This moment can also be an example to counter anti-Semitism and show that friendship and mutual respect for each other is possible between Jews and Muslims.”