The first official synagogue to be built in the United Arab Emirates will be completed by 2022, according to a report by “the National” website, a local news outlet. The shul will be part of a “place for religious tolerance and education, bringing faiths together and sending a message of unity to the world.”
The Abrahamic Family House, which was unveiled in New York Friday before construction begins on Saadiyat Island next year, is designed to be a physical manifestation of the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, during the former’s visit to Abu Dhabi in February.
In recognition of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, the three main buildings – a mosque, a church and a synagogue – will each lead to a central garden under which will sit a museum and centre for education. While the places of worship are the same height, the designs and interiors will be significantly different.
Abu Dhabi portrays itself as a center for tolerance and claims that it supports religious freedom and cultural diversity. Despite this, the government does not allow any opposition to the ruling leaders and has been criticized by human rights organizations for arrests of political activists.
Renowned British architect Sir David Adjaye, who has been chosen to implement the project, said that “There has never been a building that has the three faiths in one form. I wanted to see if we could make a building that has the unique experience of each of the faiths but to connect them all with the one device. And that is the garden.”
The mosque will be orientated toward the Kaaba in Makkah, the church’s altar will point east towards the sun, and the synagogue’s podium and ark will face Jerusalem.
At present a small community of Jewish foreign nationals uses a house in Dubai as a private Shul. Most of the UAE population is comprised of foreign workers, most of whom (30%) are from India. The UAE has no official ties with Israel, but in the last few years Israeli politicians and businessmen have visited the country and participated in international events. The two countries also reportedly are covertly cooperating in the struggle against Iran.