Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies were held Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to coincide with the official ceremony in Israel — the first time such events have been held in an Arab state.
The local Jewish communities organized the ceremonies in the two countries, which last year signed normalization agreements with Israel.
“A historic first event to mark the memory of the Holocaust,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Israeli and Emirati activists lit six candles in memory of the six million who perished, and are now standing against extremism. We will not forget.”
Images of the events shared on social media showed dozens of people participated.
זוכרים ולא שוכחים – גם בדובאי: הערב התקיים באמירות אירוע זיכרון היסטורי לרגל יום השואה, אירוע ראשון אי פעם לזיכרון השואה במדינה ערבית. את האירוע הנחה @YosephHaddad שאמר כי “זהו אירוע מרגש והיסטורי”#Israel #UAE #HolocaustMemorialDay @DXBMediaOffice@IsraelHayomHeb
צילום: ישראליז pic.twitter.com/70CnUES8PF
— Dean Shmuel Elmas (@ElmasDean) April 7, 2021
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the UAE event during his speech at Israel’s official ceremony in Jerusalem.
Speaking of Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, Netanyahu said “there is a tremendous change in the Arab world” and noted the Holocaust remembrance ceremony being held in Dubai.
“Who would have believed?” he said.
The ceremony in Dubai included a delegation of Jewish and Arab Israelis, Channel 12 reported. Several dozen social media influencers in the Gulf were to join them and organizers said they hoped they would pass on the stories of survival and remembrance.
In both Dubai and Bahrain, the ceremonies were also part of the Yellow Candle Project, a global community campaign to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust.
On Thursday evening, the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities will host a webinar with young Muslims from the UAE and Bahrain “who will discuss their experiences visiting Yad Vashem,” the group said in a statement.
It said that “for the first time ever, the Jewish communities of Bahrain and Dubai will be participating in the Yellow Candle Project, the global communal effort to remember victims of the Holocaust, whereby members from each community will light a yellow candle in memory of the name of Jews who perished during the Holocaust.”
The UAE and Bahrain last year agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords, in a pact brokered by the United States. Morocco and Sudan later normalized ties with Israel as well.
The agreements broke with the longstanding Arab idea that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.
Since then the UAE and Israel have each appointed ambassadors, with Israel already opening an embassy at a temporary location in Abu Dhabi. Last month Ambassador Eitan Na’eh held the embassy’s first-ever seder in the UAE on the first night of Passover.