Israel officially opened its dedicated pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday, welcoming visitors from all 191 countries, as ministers said the world fair can promote peace and prosperity across the Middle East.
Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Yoel Razvozov, was joined by Elazar Cohen, commissioner general of the Israel Pavilion, as they hailed the opening of the first Expo to be held in the Middle East.
It comes a year after the US-brokered normalization of ties between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel under the historic Abraham Accords.
Minister Razvozov said in his opening remarks: “I'm truly delighted to be standing here as a representative of the Israeli people and the Israeli government at the opening of Israel's National Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.”
“Many things are happening here for the first time. For the first time in history, the Expo fair is being held in an Arab country.”
It is also the first time there is an Israeli pavilion in a major fair on Arab soil, he said, saying the event has marked one of the most sound and robust steps toward cooperation between the UAE and Israel in history.
“Peace allows us to forge a new reality in the Middle East that will bring prosperity, security and stability to all,” he said. “We believe that in order to reach a better tomorrow, one should choose practical and positive actions today.”
“Tourism allows us to explore, learn from and accommodate each other. Tourism will build a human bridge to peace.”
The event began with a traditional Mezuzah ceremony performed by Rabbi Levi Duchman.
The Mezuzah Case was made and designed exclusively for Expo 2020 Dubai by famous Judaica artist David Roytman. Hanging a Mezuzah on a doorpost is an ancient Jewish practice that fulfils a biblical commandment from Deuteronomy to write the words of the Lord on the doorposts of one's home.
This was followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony, performed by the Minister of Tourism and Commissioner General.
Cohen said of the ceremony: “Tonight, by placing the Mezuzah at the entrance of our pavilion, we turned it into our home.”
“I have been dreaming of this day for many years and at this historical moment, I wish to thank Israel and the UAE governments, for making this dream come true. Our pavilion is open to everyone, and while many things divide us, common challenges and the hope for ‘tomorrow’ unite us. Together we can and will make our future, our tomorrow, better.”
The event concluded with a performance by Hamalgezot, an Israeli band playing traditional Israeli music for the 250 attendees.
Israel’s pavilion has an emphasis on the most pressing challenges to face the planet today, including agriculture, water, medicine, communications and cyber issues.
The pavilion will showcase its “open and diverse society that provides equal rights to all its inhabitants, it is a society that respects different people and cultures and is a recognised and respected state among participating nations,” a statement from the representatives of the Israel pavilion said.
Over 182 days, more than 200 participants – including nations, multilateral organizations, businesses, and educational institutions, as well as millions of visitors – aim to come to come together to create the largest and most diverse World Expo ever.