The Weekly Circuit
👋 Good Monday morning in the Middle East!
Looking ahead to Year 3 of the Abraham Accords, Israeli and Arab leaders appear focused on trying to reinforce the normalization of trade between their countries, while they’re gun-shy about predicting dramatic new developments. Celebrations were modest last week on the second anniversary of the U.S.-brokered agreements with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. On his visit to Israel to mark the Sept. 15, 2020, ceremony, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and a broad array of other public figures, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the former premier who signed the Accords. Bin-Zayed stayed through the weekend and held low-key visits to the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
If you were looking for enthusiastic crowds and raucous dancing to mark the anniversary, the place to be was Yaz Island in Abu Dhabi, where 1,500 invited guests turned out for the wedding of Rabbi Levi Duchman, founder of the Chabad Jewish community in the UAE. Brooklyn-born Duchman and his new spouse, Lea Hadad, picked the date to celebrate both their union and the Abraham Accords, which have brought almost half a million Israelis to visit the UAE in the past two years.
For a quieter way to mark the end of summer, Mount Carmel is a beautiful place to gaze at the horizon and enjoy Israel’s Mediterranean coast. In our new travel section, The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash introduces the Elma Arts Complex and Luxury Hotel, where guests are pampered with sumptuous meals, poolside cocktails and organ concerts to complement the majestic views.
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UAE foreign minister marks Abraham Accords anniversary in Israel
Israel and the United Arab Emirates celebrated the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords with a series of diplomatic meetings, hailing the rapid development of business and security ties since the White House signing of the normalization agreements. At the center of last week’s events was UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who met on Sept. 15 with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog on his first visit to Jerusalem, later going to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, to lay a wreath, The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Established fact: In the evening, the UAE’s embassy in Israel hosted a celebratory dinner in the seaside city of Herzliya. “What began as a wish and as an aspiration uniting us all is now an established fact,” Herzog said during the reception at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. “The Abraham Accords transformed, and continue to transform, our region beyond recognition.”
Lessons of history: During his visit to Yad Vashem, Bin Zayed laid a wreath at the stark Hall of Remembrance. “I am here today to remind ourselves of the lessons that history teaches us and the great responsibility upon us to act with tolerance for building our community and society,” he wrote in the guestbook. “We must take the brave step of building a bridge of true peace for the coming generations.”
Space dialogue: While at Herzog’s residence, Bin Zayed invited the Israeli president to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Dialogue conference in December, according to a UAE government statement. Later, Herzog announced that he plans in the next few months to visit Bahrain, the other Gulf state that signed the Abraham Accords on Sept. 15, 2020. Morocco and Sudan subsequently agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
Read the full story here:
UAE rabbi weds before 1,500 guests as Abraham Accords enter third year
Capping his role in helping to bring Jewish life, kosher food and joyful Hasidic spirit to the United Arab Emirates, Rabbi Levi Duchman married Lea Hadad before some 1,500 guests invited to the ceremony in the Emirati capital on Wednesday. Guests flew in from around the world to celebrate with Duchman, a Brooklyn-born, 29-year-old representative of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, and Hadad, the 27-year-old daughter of the chief Chabad rabbi in Brussels, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit.
More synagogues: The wedding at the Hilton Yas Island hotel on the evening of Sept. 14 was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in which the UAE and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel, the following day. Duchman’s synagogue is one of several that have sprung up since the agreements were signed. Previously, a single synagogue operated inconspicuously in a Dubai residential neighborhood to serve the area’s small Jewish population.
Royals and rabbis: While there have been Jewish weddings in the UAE since the Abraham Accords were signed – many of them performed by Duchman – none of them was close to the scale of Wednesday’s nuptials. Guests came from at least 33 countries, including the U.S., Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Nigeria. There were members of the royal court and officials from the UAE government. Rabbis arrived from Iran, Russia, Turkey, Nigeria, Singapore and New York, with more than 20 resident ambassadors present. Emaar Properties founder Mohamed Alabbar, builder of the 162-story Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, was sighted at the wedding, as was Terry Kane, CEO of Meta Middle East, and Manuel Rabaté, director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Fruit of the Accords: “This was one of the most magnificent Jewish events that we have ever had in the UAE,” Saoud Saqer Bin Hamoodah, an Emirati aerospace consultant who works with Israelis and attended the wedding, told The Circuit. “This is one of the fruits of the Abraham Accords that we are harvesting now.”
Interfaith center: The ceremony took place near Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, where the government is building the Abrahamic Family House, neighboring the Louvre’s domed UAE branch. The unique prayer compound, designed by knighted British architect Sir David Adjaye and scheduled for completion later this year, houses a mosque, a synagogue and a church, each of similar proportions with iconic facades reflecting the individual faiths.
A relaxing retreat with a slice of history on Mount Carmel
Guests arriving at the Elma Arts Complex and Luxury Hotel in the hilltop town of Zichron Yaakov will likely be struck by the light-filled lobby or the striking array of artwork that fills every wall and every corner. They’ll also be taken by the sweeping views of Israel’s majestic coastline, its sharp blue skies dotted with graceful paragliders, its lush green edged with pink bougainvillea, The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Socialist origins: Yet it is the story behind the building and of how it became one of Israel’s most exquisite lodgings that is perhaps most enthralling. And it is all those elements pulled together that make Elma such a special place. Tucked up high on the side of Mount Carmel, gazing over the fisheries of Kibbutz Maayan Tzvi and the picturesque stretch of beach known as Dor, the stacked whitewashed structure not only tells the story of Israel’s socialist origins, it also spotlights the inevitable clash as the country began embracing its capitalist present.
Wellness spa: Add to that mix an indomitable scion of a notable Zionist family and a family of prize-winning Israeli architects, and Elma captures not only hearts but also minds of hotel-goers even during the shortest of stays. Its story begins in 1951 with Israel’s passing of a national law requiring that all workers receive a weeklong vacation once a year. Based on that law, the Histadrut Labor Federation, the General Federation of Workers in Israel, opened wellness retreats around the country affording its members a short respite from work and daily life. One of those places was the Mivtachim Sanitarium, which was dedicated in 1968 and today forms the main body of the Elma hotel.
Entertainment hall: The upgrade took more than 10 years to complete, with the architects working to preserve the original design, including the floors and airy interior, while adding modern touches such as high-tech infrastructure, creating larger rooms and building a new, more accessible, wing. The team also replaced the old entertainment hall – where patrons sent by the worker’s union enjoyed watching movies – with a state-of-the-art acoustic theater replete with a 1,414-tube organ and two grand pianos. While it is the modern touches that make a stay at Elma both comfortable and luxurious, it is the unique history still lingering in the air that makes it a special experience.
Drink Up: Saudi Arabia is developing a resort island as part of the Neom project on its Red Sea coast, where plans indicate that alcohol will be allowed, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Startup Decline: Israel is falling behind its recent pace in launching startups, with 162 new companies so far this year, compared to 558 in 2021 and 831 in 2020.
Palestinian Slowdown: The Palestinian economy is forecast to grow by 3.5% per cent in 2022, about half the pace of its growth in 2021, according to the World Bank.
No Salt: Dubai-based Metito is building the world’s largest desalination plant in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, capable of processing 1 million cubic meters per day.
Arms Show: A conference organized by the Israel Defense Forces to display technology developed in its ranks was attended by the military chiefs of staff of 10 countries visiting Israel.
Shell Pact: Oman signed an exploration agreement with Shell Integrated Gas Oman, Total Energies and Oman’s OQ to develop the sultanate’s natural gas resources.
T-Shirts vs Tech: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid defended his plan to integrate 1 million citizens into the technology industry against critics who said it will expand social inequality. “The State of Israel will not compete against India or Indonesia in the manufacturing of T-shirts,” Lapid said in a video address to the “Let’s Talk Tech” conference Sept. 14 at the Start-Up Nation Central Policy Institute in Tel Aviv. “It will compete – and it will win – in technology.”
Shrinking IPO: Intel is scaling back expectations for an IPO of its Israeli-founded Mobileye unit to about $30 billion from $50 billion, Bloomberg reported.
Secure Data: Israel’s OneLayer, which provides security for private high-speed data and cellular networks, will receive a $6.5 million equity investment from Koch Disruptive Technologies. A Koch Industries unit will use OneLayer to secure its private network.
Cloud Breach: Israel’s Dig Security, which identifies data breaches from cloud platforms, raised $34 million in a funding round led by SignalFire.
Acquisition Fuel: Kape Technologies, an Israeli cybersecurity company, raised $220 million in a share sale on the London Stock Exchange, which it plans to use for acquisitions.
Diversity Platform: Joonko, which developed an automatic platform that helps companies sort through job candidates to build a more diverse staff, raised $25 million.
On the Circuit
Rose Sager, who grew up in Bahrain’s small Jewish community, travels around the U.S. as trade representative for the island kingdom, Jewish Insider reports.
Orna Barbivai, Israel’s economy minister and a retired army general, told Bloomberg she’s determined to reduce the gap between the country’s surging tech sector and less affluent parts of the population.
Wael Sawan, a Beirut-born citizen of Canada who grew up in Dubai, was appointed CEO of Shell Oil Co. and will take over from Ben van Beurdan at the end of the year.
Ahead on the Circuit
Sept. 20-21, Tel Aviv: Jefferies Israel Tech Trek. Investors meet some of the country’s top technology startups. Kempinski Hotel.
Sept. 26-27, UAE: Abu Dhabi Business Events Week: A conference focused on the Emirates’ convention and exhibition industry. Manarat Al Saadiyat.
Sept. 28-29, Dubai: World Green Economy Summit. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority hosts environmental conference with the World Green Economy Organization. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Oct. 10-13, Dubai: Gitex Global. Investors, technology leaders, corporate CEOs and government officials get-together for leading Gulf technology event. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Marvel’s Mossad: Marvel is promising a new approach to the Israeli superhero Sabra in its upcoming “Captain America” movie, amid criticism from Palestinian groups over the addition of a character who formerly belonged to the Mossad.
NBA in UAE: The National Basketball Association will hold two preseason games in the UAE between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena on Oct. 6 and Oct. 8.
Seeking Media Partner: LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed upstart league, is having trouble finding a major U.S. media partner to broadcast its tournaments, with Amazon and Apple turning down the offer, according to the Wall Street Journal.