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World

'Made in Israel' alcohol hits Dubai's liquor stores as thousands of Israelis flock to Emirate

  • Scores undeterred by Israel’s warnings about possible Iranian attacks in the region have celebrated weddings, and eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah with large gatherings banned back home
  • Data collected from travel agents revealed that at least 70,000 Israeli tourists arrived in Dubai on 15 nonstop daily flights in December
31 Dec, 2020

(Karachi) Months after a US-brokered deal to normalize ties between Israel and the UAE, Israeli revelers seeking relief from long virus restrictions have flown into Dubai in droves enjoying "Made in Israel” alcohol that hit local stores, Associated Press reported.

For nearly a month, Israelis who were banned from traveling on foreign passports to the Arab world, have made themselves at home in the UAE’s commercial hub. Scores undeterred by Israel’s warnings about possible Iranian attacks in the region have celebrated weddings, bar mitzvahs and the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah with large gatherings banned back home.

Now, as the virus surges in Israel and triggers a third lockdown, Israelis are hoping vaccines accelerate their mass return to the bustling city.

70,000 Israelis throng city

Data collected from travel agents revealed that at least 70,000 Israeli tourists arrived in Dubai on 15 nonstop daily flights in December. A 12-foot (3.5-meter) Hanukkah candelabra was placed under the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, where Jews gathered to light the candles and take selfies as festive Hebrew songs blared across the massive fountain downtown.

The Israeli tourists were surprised to see that “Made in Israel” signs have popped up in Dubai’s chain grocery and liquor stores, which now sell wine from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

The store owners intend to keep wine, honey and tahini from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank in the coming weeks and other products from Israel in wake of increasing influx of Jewish tourists.

Status symbol

Meanwhile, Israelis trip to Dubai has now become a status symbol on social media as hotels across the city booked thousands of Israeli travelers and hosted a range of Israeli business conferences, holiday parties and days-long weddings.

Moreover, singers from Israel have planned concerts in the city while plans are underway to establish Israel's first Jewish cemetery and ritual bath known as a mikvah.

“I expected to feel really uncomfortable here,” said 25-year-old Azerad, the Israeli bride. She added, “I feel like it’s Tel Aviv as I hear Hebrew everywhere.”

Similarly, head of Jerusalem-based Ziontours Mark Feldman said: “It was unbelievable, it was a tsunami.” He maintained that Dubai has become an oasis for Israelis in the middle of the pandemic.

The backdrop

A few months ago, the UAE and Bahrain signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel, becoming the latest Arab states to break a longstanding taboo in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.

US President Donald Trump hosted the White House ceremony, capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel's decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.

The deals, denounced by the Palestinians, make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalize ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The pact which brought Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together reflects their shared concern about Iran's rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of the agreement.

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