Israelis can now journey to Dubai. The Persian Gulf won’t ever be the identical

(CNN) – The moment travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted, Peleg Cohen knows exactly where he is going. The Israel-born travel blogger, photographer, and humanitarian worker, 37, says he has been traveling since his early 20s, visited 150 countries and recorded everything for his travel blog Lonely Peleg. As soon as it is safe to travel again, he will be on his way to a place that was completely forbidden to him just a few months ago and is now expected to be one of the hottest vacation destinations for Israelis in the coming months: Dubai.

Finally recognition

Since Israel was founded in 1948, only two of the 22 states in the Arab League have officially recognized the nation: Egypt and Jordan.

Across the Persian Gulf and in large parts of the Arab world, Israeli travelers have traditionally been banned from entry because their passports have not been recognized. In turn, the citizens of most of the Arab countries were unable to travel to Israel to visit the holy sites of Jerusalem and the beaches, restaurants and nightlife of Tel Aviv.

However, all of that changed last month when Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, announced the Abraham Accords. It’s an agreement that made the UAE the third Arab nation to officially recognize Israel and melted decades of cool relations between the two countries. It was a contract that fell like a strong first domino and sparked a series of consecutive events. Bahrain joined the Abrahamic Accords with Israel less than a month later.

It is widely expected that Oman will be the next to line up to allow entry to Israeli travelers.

Courtesy Six Senses Zighy Bay

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to Israeli jetliners in August, a historic decision after decades of Israeli planes having to chase a wide hook around the Persian Gulf in order not to get into its air territory, and are rumored to be in relation to full diplomatic relations are the closest.

There are whispers that Morocco, which already allows travel to and from Israel, is now also considering moving.

Welcome tourists

All these political changes have made the tourism industry of Israel and the Gulf nations, which have been hit by the coronavirus and are more than just looking for an early start, massively optimistic.

Direct flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai are imminent, but no fixed date has been announced. But even before the first jet takes off, industry analysts are predicting that 1.25 million new tourists who are suddenly allowed to travel across each other’s borders will travel between Israel and the Persian Gulf in the next few years.

Israeli interest

Israel is a tiny country with fewer than 9 million people. But Cohen says the excitement among them of exploring the Persian Gulf is pretty universal.

Israel is a tiny country with fewer than 9 million people.  But Cohen says the excitement among them of exploring the Persian Gulf is pretty universal.

Israel is a tiny country with fewer than 9 million people. But Cohen says the excitement among them of exploring the Persian Gulf is pretty universal.

Courtesy Peleg Cohen

“There are many types of Israelis, but I think all types of Israelis will want to fly there,” Cohen said on a phone call from his hometown in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, where he was riding the pandemic. “Dubai and the Emirates have so much to offer the Israeli market,” he said, adding that even the nation’s religious Jews who abide by Shabbat and the kashrut food laws are keen to travel.

When Cohen arrives in Dubai, he will have someone to help show him around: his new friend Khalifa Al Mazrouei, a travel blogger and well-known daredevil from Dubai who he became friends with online after the two of them attended a live Facebook had participated in chat for the Israel Ministry of Tourism about travel between the UAE and Israel.Khalifa Al Mazrouei, a travel blogger and well-known daredevil from Dubai, and Cohen participated in a live Facebook chat about travel between the UAE and Israel for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Khalifa Al Mazrouei, a travel blogger and well-known daredevil from Dubai, and Cohen participated in a live Facebook chat about travel between the UAE and Israel for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Israel Ministry of Tourism / Debra Kamin

The two have talked frequently since their joint Facebook appearance on September 15.

Al Mazrouei, who records his adventures in the mountains and exploring caves in the United Arab Emirates at @UAE_Outdoors, said he was surprised to hear about the Abrahamic Accords, and although he was always longing for Israel To travel and pray in Al-Aqsa In the mosque in Jerusalem he also felt a surprising emotion: fear.

“The Arabs never thought we would have relations between Israel and the UAE,” he said on a phone call. “What we’ve always heard is that she is [Israelis] were bad and they were dangerous. We’ve heard this since we were kids. “

Now that he knows he can travel to Israel, he has made it his business to dispel this stereotype in Emirati society. And as he found out about Israel’s diverse terrain and chatted with Israeli bloggers and influencers about the nation’s deserts, oceans, and mountains, he began to share his excitement about visiting Israel with his own followers from the Emirates.

“I did not think [Israelis] I would welcome myself to their country, and indeed they are very excited – more excited than us, “he said.” I feel like it’s my responsibility to show the people here their traditions and their places so that Emiratis will understand. “”

Change of tide

Now that Al Mazrouei knows he can travel to Israel, he has made it his mission to dispel negative stereotypes about Israelis that persist in parts of Emirati society.

Now that Al Mazrouei knows he can travel to Israel, he has made it his mission to dispel negative stereotypes about Israelis that persist in parts of Emirati society.

Courtesy Khalifa Al Mazrouei

Al Mazrouei is far from the only one making plans for the Israelis to arrive in Dubai.

In early September, Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, a kosher catering company run by a local South African Jew who is part of Dubai’s small Jewish community, partnered with Habtoor Hospitality to bring kosher certified meals to a number of local Dubai hotels , including the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City.

El Al Airlines, which flew a pilot flight by journalists and diplomats from Tel Aviv to Dubai too much fanfare on August 31, is expected to announce a regular non-stop service soon, according to numerous news reports in the Israeli media.

Two United Arab Emirates airlines – Etihad Airways and Emirates, according to Israeli media – are scheduled to start non-stop flights between the United Arab Emirates and Tel Aviv by January. Israir, Israel’s budget competitor airline to El Al, will also enter the battle with $ 299 flights between the two countries.Abu Dhabi and Israel have even reached an agreement on a joint television production contract and film festival that will alternate years between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and encourage visits between nations.

“The peace agreement creates enormous potential for tourism between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, both in terms of bilateral tourism and opening up both countries to new target markets,” said Amir Halevi, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

“There are currently contacts between representatives of the two countries on various aspects of tourism. This includes aviation and tourist visa agreements from both countries, as well as the creation of marketing agreements for joint Middle East travel packages. These packages will include a visit to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with other Middle Eastern countries on flights that will fly over Saudi Arabia. “

Tensions with Turkey

Even the ability to simply travel around Dubai represents a new world of travel options for Israelis who in the past had to travel through either Turkey or Jordan to travel anywhere in the Arab world via Tel Aviv.

Israel-born travel blogger and photographer Peleg Cohen has visited 150 countries to make Dubai his next.

Israel-born travel blogger and photographer Peleg Cohen has visited 150 countries to make Dubai his next.

Courtesy Peleg Cohen

The cascade of treaties with Gulf states represents not only peace, but also a consequence of the ongoing tensions with Turkey, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a severe critic of Israel, has threatened the relationship despite maintaining diplomatic relations with the country to suspend the UAE because of the agreement.“The Emiratis see Israel as the truly only country in the region that is strived for in terms of technological competence and military effectiveness,” said Michael Stephens, foreign policy analyst and national security expert, in a recent interview for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“As such, their relationship with Israel has been growing for years and this is really just an admission of what we already know to be true: that the two countries are friendly and on par on many issues, and not just Iran’s position and his Influence in the region. “

After participating in the video chat with Cohen, Al Mazrouei was surprised to learn that many Jews share traditions and language with Arabs, including Cohen himself, whose family is from Tunisia.

Many Israelis who have seen the video chat have reached out to him and invited him to explore both the Israeli desert and the mountains, which he hopefully will soon.

“I’ll be the first to fly to Israel – unless Peleg is on his way to Dubai, and then I’ll wait for him here because I’ll meet him and show him around,” he said with a laugh.

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