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Mar 8, 2009

Bnei Brak twinning with Dubai

In one of the weekend newspapers, Ha'Shavua B'Yerushalayim, there was an interesting exclusive article.

The article described how the mayor of Bnei Brak, Yaakov Asher, recently went to Japan to testify as a character witness on behalf of the boys in jail for unwittingly smuggling drugs into the country. While in Dubai, he was approached, the article describes, for a meeting with Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. The shiekh had seen him in the hotel, was curious who it was that was dressed so strangely (haredi dress), and inquired about him. When the emir found out this was the mayor of an Orthodox Israeli city, he requested a meeting.

During the meeting, Asher described the lifestyle of the inhabitants of his city. During the discussion, they agreed to work on a city twinning plan (sister cities) between Bnei Brak and Dubai. The shiekh promised 250 million dollars to Bnei Brak, along with the development of a "Dubai Park" that would cost no less than 5 billion dollars (!), along with a promise that next time he goes to visit Gaza he will also visit Bnei Brak and gave Asher a gift of an expensive Patrimony Swiss watch. The shiekh said they are opposed to the policy of occupation of Israel, but have nothing against the Jews. Al Maktoum recommended forging ties int he form of sister cities.

This plan has been kept hush hush, as Asher requested from the Foreign Ministry they check the possibility of the twinning program, and asked the media to not mention it until approval is granted. Now it has been approved, at least some of the details, for general release (I am not sure why the general press had not picked up such a story).

My questions on this story are:

1. Is there any truth to it? I have not found any info on this anywhere else doing searches...

2. City Twinning programs are meant to develop the sharing of cultures betwene cities, with each side "donating" something to the other. Clearly, Dubai will be giving Bnei Brak a lot of money if this goes through, but what can Bnei Brak offer to Dubai? Money is out of the question, and what culture can orthodox jews offer to one of the wealthy Arab emirates in the world? the article described what the shiekh was offering to Bnei Brak, yet said not a word about what Bnei Brak had to offer to Dubai.
It is possible that this is simply charity. The shiekh seems to be a very charitable person, but this was described as city twinning, and not as charity.

3. It seems strange that Bnei Brak would go for their first city twinning plan with an Arab country that has no relations with Israel. Perhaps it is even appropriate considering the hostility to the state a reasonable percentage of the residents of BB have....

4. Dubai has been in the news a lot recently rejecting any connection to Israel - the tennis squads had problems getting visas. There is some financial conference hosted by Dubai and they would not let the Israeli representatives in. etc. Suddenly they are willing to have a city twinning project with an Israeli city? and even if it is just charity - they are giving money to an Israeli city?


  1. It could be (if this story is true at all), that the sheikh wants to go on a PR offensive in the wake of the tennis incident (recall that not all Israelis were banned -only Shahar Pe'er; it could very well be that there were specific threats against her, and the Dubai authorities were unable to protect her, as they claimed at the time).

    Thus, they would not need to receive anything from BB. The offer of a sister-city could be either a way of BB preserving a little dignity (they don't have to appear as accepting charity from a wealthy Arab), or a way of making this a little more palatable to the Dubai public (the sheikh isn't donating all this stuff to a Jewish city, there is an appearance of a quid-pro-quo).

  2. good suggestions.
    Peer was the only, but she was the first. After the outcry, it is more likely they decided not to reject the application for the others...

    they just rejected visas for the Israeli delegation to the economic conference... http://www.themarker.com/tmc/article.jhtml?ElementId=abe20090307_65321&origin=ibo&strToSearch=%E3%E5%E1%E0%E9

  3. This sounds like a purim shpiel. But if true - how bizarre!
    Mind you, the women of BB may find they have a lot in common with the women of Dubai!!

  4. Is this better or worse than accepting money from evangelical christians?

  5. a freilichen Purim to you too.

  6. The next time he goes to visit Gaza? That would be approximately... Never! And what was so strange about the charedi's dress? Except for the hat, it was pretty standard Western business attire.

  7. thanks Abbi - I knew there was one more point I wanted to make, but forgot it when I was writing the post...
    funny that the guy in robes thought the guy in the suit was dressed unusual....

  8. I thought this was Purim shtick till I read your question #1.

    If he travelled on an Israeli passport, then this didn't happen. I was refused entry to participate in an Emergency Medical Services conference for that very reason. If fact, I think even an Israeli visa in a different passport would be prohibited.

    So, if it isn't YOUR Purim shtick, it's the newspaper's.

    Now, I'd love to see some Arab media pick this up as real... :-D

  9. Something seems very fishy here.

    Actually Dubai is having severe financial problems lately and has been looking for assistance itself. See e.g.



    Perhaps the story was not totally fabricated, but it definitely seems that it was exaggerated, esp. the five billion dollar Dubai Park feature.

    A pre-Purim spoof perhaps, at least partially?

  10. It is known that in the past at international aid conferences certain wealthy countries have pledged large sums of money but did not come through with the funds at the end. This was even if the cause was people of their own faith or ethnicity. Talk is cheap. Some cultures tend to extravagant talk, with little, if any, follow-through (if the thing is not a total deception).

    Add in some Haredi naivete and wishful thinking, being accustomed to 'miracle' stories, and the lax standards of some of the Haredi press, and you can end up with such stories. It may not be deliberate, but things still do not add up at the end.

  11. all I know is that it was not in the "purim humor" section of the newspaper. It was in the real section. As far as I know that means it is real.

  12. It's probably a purim joke - doesn't have to be in the joke section - as we all know newspapers have a wonderful record of sticking to the truth, especially in the main section.

  13. I'm sure that it's Purim shtick.

    Dubai is already in big trouble for its anti-Israel stand.

    No way that Dubai would risk more of the world's rancor by twinning with a city so well-known for its opposition to the Jewish State.


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