Guidance issued to Israeli travellers paying a visit to their new friends in the Gulf includes advice not to insult Islam or try to shake a woman’s hand.
Millions of Israelis now have a new holiday destination to visit after normalising relations with the UAE and the opening up of new air routes between the two new allies.
Preparations for the influx of Israeli tourists are already well underway with several hotels adding Kosher food to their menus, and the UAE’s first Kosher restaurant opening up in the country’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Measures are also expected to be taken to make sure Emiratis are not subject to the gruelling immigration procedures other Arab visitors entering Israeli airports have to endure.
Diplomatically, the two countries see eye-to-eye on a number of issue, including the need to counter Iran, suppress the Muslim Brotherhood, and to ensure no Arab country develops a functioning democracy but the risk of scandal stemming from their new found openness and cultural interaction still weighs heavy.
To avoid embarrassment, the Israeli government is issuing advice for Israelis wishing to travel to the UAE.
The rules include advice not to wear excessively revealing clothing or clothes carrying messages insulting to Islam.
Other warnings include guidance against discussing democracy, Gulf cultural norms, or the Palestinian issue.
Travelers of the same gender traveling together must also book separate beds when checking into a hotel room.
Those visiting are also advised to not drink alcohol on the street and avoid shaking hands with women, if they are men.
The warnings come with some precedent, as Israel is no stranger to high profile scandals involving its citizens abroad; the most prominent being a purported gang rape incident in the island of Cyprus in 2019.
A British woman claims that she was raped by a group of Israelis while on holiday in the resort of Ayia Napa. She later recanted the claims and was convicted of lying but has since repeated the allegations, as she tries to overturn the conviction against her.
The Israeli teenagers returned home after their release to a rapturous welcome as they shouted “the Brit is a whore”.
Such examples are obviously rare but they are a public relations risk neither country can ill afford at this stage in their relationship.
The possibilities of a short weekend break and clubbing holidays in the UAE have become somewhat of a fixation in the Israeli media.
The Jerusalem Post reported that while there is a lot of eagerness to visit the UAE, some Israelis may be under the misguided impression that the Arab culture in the country is similar to the one found among Palestinians and in neighbouring Egypt.
Its takeaway was that Israelis will be encountering a much more conservative culture that will be less forgiving of misdemeanours like public drunkenness.
“While Dubai is a major party scene, you cannot do anything out in the open, and I need Israelis to know and understand the place they are going to.” Claire Blumenthal, a Jewish American, quoted by the Times of Israel said.
The same Times of Israel article warns women of the dangers of reporting rape, given that there have been several instances of women who have alleged rape being charged with having sex outside of marriage themselves.
Additionally, there is the fear of the UAE’s proximity to Israel’s arch-nemesis, Iran, which lies just 70km from the Gulf State and has promised vengeance over a series of allegedly Israeli-orchestrated assassinations of its officials.
According to Israel’s Channel 12, Israeli intelligence are working alongside their Emirati counterparts to ensure that any Israelis traveling to the UAE are not in danger of an Israeli response.