During this time of global turmoil and anxiety, we’re all looking for a glimmer of hope on the horizon. I believe that yesterday's very first El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi is that glimmer of hope.
The recent announcement of normalization between Israel and the UAE has demonstrated that peace is possible when leaders are willing to take a bold and unconventional approach.
Of course, certain experts have told us that peace between Arabs and Israelis isn’t possible. When the U.S. officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018, and the very next year the U.S. recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, both decisions were supposed to be deal breakers with the Arab world. Clearly, they were not.
Instead, by recognizing reality on the ground, these decisions took the power away from those in our region who benefit from conflict and gave power to the majority of people who long to build bridges of peace between people of all walks of life.
As a region of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the fact that this agreement is called the Abraham Accord is especially meaningful. In the Middle East, you can’t ignore religion when talking about peace – it is too woven into the fabric of everyday life.
So, it’s fitting that we celebrate this great, historic achievement under the banner of Abraham. The patriarch is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He is the common thread that binds together members of our diverse communities. He stands as a symbol of unity in a region fractured too long by conflict, terrorism, and unrest.
Indeed, the Abraham Accord holds great promise not just for Israel and the UAE, but for the entire Middle East.
This isn’t just a political achievement. It is also very personal for many Israelis, Arabs, and others in the region. As a mother of four living in Israel, I know peace promises a safer, more productive, brighter future for my children, and for all Israeli and Arab children. This agreement offers active collaboration between our two countries in the fields of medicine, technology, and security. It will promote tourism, which will boost both economies and lead to personal interaction between Israelis and Emiratis.
The “Abraham Accord” models a forward-looking Middle East that is no longer fixated on the grievances of the past, but on a more prosperous future for all.
Now, the dialogue will be tilted toward mutual understanding. As UAE’s foreign minister eloquently puts it, “Seventy years of not communicating with Israel has led us nowhere… I think we need to shift to a new method of doing things. And that method simply is: We can disagree with you in political issues but we can work with you [on] non-political issues.”
The foreign minister’s words reminded me of a motto that my late father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, lived by: Cooperate whenever possible, oppose whenever necessary, and teach and sensitize at all times.
Now, the hard work actually begins. Forging this historic peace is a miracle to be celebrated but it is also just a first step. We must – Emiratis and Israelis, Jews and Arabs – build something brilliant upon the foundation of peace granted to us by our leaders and on behalf of the well-being of all of our children.
There’s a concept in Judaism that tells us “mitzvah gorreret mitzvah,” – or, one good deed leads to another.
Just as grievance led to grievance, positive actions can lead to more positive developments. The door has been opened, and now it’s up to us to do our part. As the prophet wrote, “see, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
A great bridge has been built over an impassable chasm. Now we must walk over it and get to know one another.
Yael Eckstein is the president of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews. As President, Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the organization’s international spokesperson. She can be heard on The Fellowship’s daily radio program airing on 1,500 stations worldwide. Before her present duties, Yael served as global executive vice president, senior vice president, and director of program development and ministry outreach. Based in Jerusalem, Yael is a published writer, leading international advocate for persecuted religious minorities, and a respected social services professional. As President of The Fellowship, she also holds the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of America’s largest religious not-for-profit organizations. www.IFCJ.org