An Emirati airline announced regular flights to Israel with a video featuring several iconic images associated with Israel including… the Second Temple.
Etihad: Daily Flights to Tel Aviv
Etihad Airways, the United Arab emirate’s flagship carrier based in Abu Dhabi, announced on Monday that it would begin daily flights to Tel Aviv on March 28. The flights will be timed to connect with Etihad services to and from China, Thailand, India, and Australia. The announcement comes in the wake of the Abraham Accords normalizing relations between the two countries signed at the White House on 15 September. On October 19th, Etihad became the first carrier from the Arab Gulf to operate a commercial passenger flight to and from Tel Aviv.
Today, we make history. Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning…
Salam and Shalom! pic.twitter.com/KT66QFfqmg
— Etihad Airways (@etihad) October 19, 2020
At least as compelling as the announcement was the manner in which it was presented. The airline posted a video on Twitter showing a stewardess named Ann presenting a “60 second guide to everything you need to know about the city.” Ann’s description of Tel Aviv was given while she was standing in front of graphics intended to symbolize the appeal of Israel. The graphics included an Israeli flag, Dead Sea salts and mud, and palm trees. And in the upper left-hand corner was a rather cute drawing labeled “Second Temple.”
— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) November 16, 2020
Unfortunately, the image is still available but the video has been removed by Etihad.
Arab Tourism Unwelcome by Israeli Arabs
Though an influx of Arabic-speaking tourists might be seen as a boon to the local Arab population with many of the Gulf state Muslims coming specifically to visit the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, the local religious leaders are not so welcoming. When the Abraham Accords were announced in August, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, issued a fatwa (religious proclamation) declaring that Muslim citizens of the UAE will not be permitted to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The effect of this fatwa was seen last month when a delegation of businessmen from the UAE visiting Israel was taken to the Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. While in the mosque, several Palestinians approached the delegation, insulting them with one Palestinian yelling, “Normalizers, rubbish,” at the visiting dignitaries, and another yelling for them to leave the site.
One of the delegates tried to engage the Palestinians in dialogue who responded, “Emiratis are dogs…Get out!”