When religious members of the Israeli delegation accompanying Foreign Minister Yair Lapid went to dine at their hotel in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, they expected the same kind of fee they usually received at similar events.
It often consists of meals wrapped in plastic wrap that are far less palatable than those enjoyed by their secular counterparts.
But during Lapid’s historic two-day visit to the UAE, there was an extensive buffet with kosher salads, fish, chicken, meat and cakes, all provided by an impossible source – the mighty prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed, also known as MBZ.
According to UAE Rabbi Levi Duchman, the UAE Armed Forces Officers Club reached out to him in the direction of the Crown Prince’s office. They told US-born Rabbi Chabad that an Israeli delegation was coming and they needed to prepare better food for him.
Duchman sent one of his mashgichim, or kashr overseers, to open the kitchen at the military club and oversee the preparation of the food.
“It was 100% the UAE who wanted to make sure that if there were people carrying hives on the trip, they should have the best standard of hive food,” Duchman told the Times of Israel.
Most of the hive food was locally sourced. The chickens were ritually slaughtered by Duchman Mendel’s brother, a shochet in the inner city of the Emirates Al-Ain.
Bin Zayed’s staff was so determined to secure the hive fee that the truck transporting food from the officers’ club to the hotel was accompanied by a caravan of jeeps, plus a mashgiach, from the Crown Prince’s office. They drove directly behind the truck, making sure no one disturbed the food.
This episode is typical of how Emirati authorities approach the Jewish ritual, Duchman said.
An Israeli tourist recently died in his sleep in a hotel room in the city center. Police did not touch the body until Duchman and the Jewish funeral home arrived, and authorities went out of their way to retrieve the body back to Israel within 48 hours.
“The government showed tremendous respect for everyone involved in the ritual,” Duchman stressed.
In addition, marriages performed by the rabbi are automatically registered by the UAE authorities as valid civil marriages as well.
One of the kitchens in the Armed Forces Officers Club, certified by the Emirates and Duchman Agency for Kosher Certification, became fairer right after the Abraham Settlements in September 2020.
Days before the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE, local authorities in Abu Dhabi instructed all hotels in the city to prepare kosher food options.
In a written message sent to managers of all hotels in the Emirati capital, its Department of Culture and Tourism mentioned its commitment to serving “all visitors and tourists to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi”. Therefore, “all hotel institutions are advised to include kosher food options in the room service menus and at all food and beverage outlets in their facilities”.
All hotels are required to “require hive certification for the treatment of hive meals”. to “designate an area in all kitchens for the preparation of kosher food;” and to label the kosher menu items with a clear and visible label / reference with a familiar symbol indicating “kosher”, according to the certification obtained.
The city has about 160 hotels and apartment hotels.
“Some hotels will build their own kitchen, while others will simply use training and use third-party suppliers,” said Duchman, who chairs the sessions explaining Kashr’s laws and how to handle the best events.
Elli Kriel, who owns the UAE’s first kosher food business, welcomed Abu Dhabi’s decision.
“The UAE is already known for its excellent service and standards for food production and this will ensure that it is extended to the best travelers,” she said.
Elli’s kitchen, her Dubai-based business, was responsible for catering to Israeli journalists and several members of a joint U.S.-Israeli delegation in Abu Dhabi in 2020.
There are more than a dozen Emirates hotels with light cuisines, including famous five-star hotels like Emirates Palace and St. Regis Saadiyat Island.
“They want to make sure that if a Jew comes and needs a special diet, it should be properly prepared in the best possible way,” Duchman said.