The dizzying pace of normalization has stunned even the skeptics. Despite the countries’ long-secret ties, the UAE had considered Israel a political pariah over the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The modest expat Jewish community in the federation of seven sheikhdoms kept a low profile and prayed in an unmarked villa.
But the arrival of 70,000 Israeli tourists, according to travel agents’ estimates, on 15 nonstop daily flights in December changed everything. A 12-foot (3.5-meter) Hanukkah candelabra appeared 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 Jewish community’s furtive Friday night Shabbat meal has transformed into celebrations at two cavernous banquet halls with spillover seating for Israeli visitors. “Made in Israel” signs have popped up in Dubai’s chain grocery and liquor stores
Despite initial worries about Iranian threats and diplomatic fallout from misbehaving tourists, travel agents say there have been only minor hiccups. A few Israeli tourists got stuck in sand dunes while racing on quad bikes, prompting an elaborate rescue mission by a government helicopter