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December 15, 2021 1:16 pm
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First Jewish Children’s Camp Opens in UAE, Offering Activities and Lessons on Judaism

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The opening of Camp Gan Izzy on Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Screenshot

The United Arab Emirates opened its first Jewish children’s camp on Monday for the winter season.

Camp Gan Izzy at the Mini Miracles Jewish preschool in Dubai will provide indoor and outdoor activities — including bowling, ice skating, swimming and talent shows — mixed with lessons on Jewish history and religious practices. Children will also be given a kosher-certified lunch.

More than 50 children have signed up for the camp, which runs from Dec. 13-22 and is divided into two groups: ages 1-2 and ages 5-12.

Camp Gan Izzy has multiple locations around the world and counselors were brought in from the US and France for the UAE’s winter camp, Al Arabiya news reported. The UAE’s Rabbi Levi Duchman told the publication, “This is something tremendous. This is a direct outcome of the Abraham Accords, and we’re very excited about this.” He wrote on Twitter, “Now we can proudly help cultivate Jewish life for people of all ages in the UAE.”

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Duchman worked at a Camp Gan Izzy when he was younger and called the program a “game changer” for Jewish children raised there.

“This gives them the opportunity to meet new friends, meet new people, and this makes it normal for a child to grow up in the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

He added that since the signing of the Abraham Accords in mid-2020, which normalized ties between Israel and the Emirates, the Jewish community in the UAE has grown tremendously.

“In terms of [Jewish] families, all of a sudden the UAE came on the map,” he explained. “Before the Abraham Accords, maybe they would never consider to move to the UAE, they weren’t sure. What is their view on Israel? What is their view on other topics?”

“As we continue to build Jewish life in the UAE, build tolerance and coexistence, we want to have children growing up in the UAE with the same values that the UAE leadership has — values of tolerance, values of respect, and coexistence,” Duchman said.

The camp’s opening on Monday also took place during Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s historic trip to the UAE, which marked the first official visit of an Israeli leader to the country.

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