Young Emiratis and Israelis chat online after UAE and Israel sign “Normalisation” deal
By David E. Kaplan
“Who’s in for a road trip? I’m driving to Tel Aviv”
Listen to what the youth of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are saying to each other. They are not talking about F35 fighters or Iran. They are talking TO each other – ABOUT each other! Each wants to know what the other eats, what clothes they wear and what’s the buzz in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.
What’s more, they want to meet each other in person!
This is the true “normailsation” of the deal.
Typically, amongst their seniors, there were no shortage of cynics when it came to the quick response following the surprise signing of the agreement.
Some critiqued the deal on the underlying motives of the countries or the individual negotiators. And even if the timing solicited the reflexive suspicion of pulling a diplomatic rabbit out of the hat to improve the electability of the leaders of the USA and Israel, it still does not negate that it has reshaped the political topography of the Middle East.
No sooner had the announcement been made – et Voila! As if by some magic wand, people felt an infusion of fresh oxygen as it animated friendly human contact between young people who hours before, dared to speak to each other!
For the first time, people were able to make direct phone calls and book flights between Israel and the UAE. This was not just news – this was MONUMENTAL NEWS. After all, the UAE is the first Arab state in 26 years to make peace with Israel following the path of the trailblazers – Egypt and Jordan.
Not holding back, young people from both countries began meeting online to find out more about each other.
Meeting of Minds
As officials of both countries began discussing opening up embassies and talking about travel and trade, some young people from both countries began meeting online to find out more about each other. They spoke to each other in English. Amongst the Israelis was Eden and Mia.
The initiative began with the Tel Aviv-based non-governmental organisation ISRAEL-is, which linked up with members and former members of the Emirates Youth Council.
Holding up a map of the Middle East on his tablet and pointing to both Israel on the eastern Mediterranean and then the UAE further to the east, a young man from Abu Dhabi draped in white with keffiyeh (headscarf) says:
“There was this Emeriti guy who just posted the time duration from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv and it says – one day and two hours. He said: “Who’s in for a road trip? I’m driving to Tel Aviv”.”
All the chatters from Israel and the UAE break into rapturous laughter.
A young Israeli guy from Tel Aviv replies:
“I think it is a true breakthrough and that we all need to take it from here.”
An Emirati woman then asks:
“I really want to learn more about your culture and your religion. I am mind blown – very excited.”
Genuine curiosity is beautifully characterised in this youthful exchange about something so totally basic.
A young Israeli asks:
“Speaking of clothing, I would like to ask about your clothing?”
The Emeriti guy all-in-white answers:
“So, you need something to reflect the sun. So, the best reflector is white. You know, it’s so windy and you need something to cover the face and eyes. There were no Ray-Bans and glasses before.”
Shifting away from apparel and appearance, a young Israeli girl asks:
“So tell us something interesting about the UAE? Something that people usually misunderstand about you guys?”
The response comes from an Emirati girl her own age who breaks into a broad infectious smile and says:
“We have money trees. That’s not true. I still work when I am on annual leave to make more money and I’m working on the side to make my own business. So no; I don’t have a money tree.” Laughing, she continues, “I wish I did though!”.
Already making solid friendships, the Emirati guy says:
“When I come to Tel Aviv the first people I’m going to see are Eden and Mia,” to which Eden replies:
“I will be waiting for you at the airport; Just send me your flight number.”
The exchange concludes with the Emiratis all making heart signs with the hands and exclaiming:
“Love from Abu Dhabi”
“A Geopolitical Earthquake”
A not too infrequent critic of Israeli policies, The New York Times columnist Thomas E. Friedman was all praise, describing the deal as “A Geopolitical Earthquake” that “Just Hit the Mideast.”
Over and above all the politics in play, Friedman focused on “another message”, deeper and what he describes as “more psychological.”
“This was the UAE telling the Iranians and all their proxies: There are really two coalitions in the region today — those who want to let the future bury the past and those who want to let the past keep burying the future. The UAE is taking the helm of the first, and it is leaving Iran to be the leader of the second.”
Over and above the sectarianism, tribalism and corruption endlessly broiling in the Middle East’s geopolitical hotspot, Friedman notes with optimism “other currents — YOUNG MEN and WOMEN who are just so tired of the old game, the old fights, the old wounds being stoked over and over again. You could see them demonstrating all over the streets of Beirut last week demanding good governance and a chance to realize their full potential.”
We need to pay an attentive ear to the voices of the youth as to the direction they would like to see in the future to ensure that the haters and dividers don’t always have to win.
It is now time for “the future to bury the past.”
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