I love traveling. I have been to 88 countries, many places more than once. The more I travel, the more I want to travel. Travel opens your eyes, it makes you think and it changes you as a person. The more times I visit a place, the deeper my understanding of the people, the culture, the government. Each journey changes me as my filter of the world is enhanced and impacted by all that I see.
As crazy intrepid travelers, we visited Dubai in 2006. It was not on the checklist of must do places, Israeli passports were not welcome and the few Jews in the country were very quiet about their existence. We took a hop-on-hop-off bus which mainly showcased buildings going up, sub-cities like media city, medical city and more being built at the time. The commentary included fantastical stories about all the amazing things that were being developed. It sounded very futuristic. When we returned 15 years later, it felt like we had traveled 150 years forward.
A visit to to Dubai is like going to the largest adventure theme park. No matter what you enjoy, they offer it as the biggest and best in the world. Adventure - tick, beaches - tick, dessert - tick, glitz and glamor - tick, entertainment - tick. It’s so much more. It’s seeing dreams come true, it’s understanding how powerful and effective leaders can have a vision and actually execute it. The leader of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum famously said “Impossible is a word used by some people who fear to dream big."
In Dubai, less than 10 percent of the 10 million population is Emirati. It’s a kaleidoscope of 160 nationalities and cultures who live together in tolerance.
There are strict employment laws, tolerance and discrimination laws, and women are completely equal in the workforce. There is a huge focus on people with disabilities called “People of determination”.
For this third visit of mine to Dubai, I brought a group of young professionals through JIC. Over Shabbat, we had the privilege of getting to know one of the four Jewish communities already established there. The current estimate of Jewish people currently present in the UAE is anywhere between 2,000-5,000 - and the number is only rising as an attractive tax haven and a "city of the future." A major high tech company from Israel is said to be relocating upwards of 100 families this coming summer!
I heard a story of a Jewish child being singled out by a classmate. The parents of the classmate claimed it was not them and that their kid was influenced by television. The school’s response was that is not good enough and that the parents refusal to take responsibility meant the kid was asked to leave the school.
The President passed away while we were in Dubai and the country went into mourning. There is such respect for leaders; new leaders revere their predecessors. I learnt many lessons about leadership from this country.
I kept thinking about the stories people tell of living in Iran, Iraq or Morocco before the establishment of the state of Israel. There were so many stories of fruitful business partnerships and neighbors loving and accepting their Jewish friends. Living in Israel where there is so much tension between Jews and Muslims, it is hard to imagine this reality. In Dubai there is no me vs you: it’s us.
I am always planing the next trip, not because it’s a tick on the list or a race to see the world; I love learning, and the best teacher is the world.
Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller – Ibn Battuta