Across the Middle East, there has been an outpouring of solidarity with Israel following the Mount Meron disaster.
Egypt joined several Gulf states and others in offering official condolences. This is important symbolically, because it is in contrast to the pro-Hezbollah social media accounts that celebrated the deaths. In contrast to the hatred on Al-Jazeera, where commentators said they were happy to see Israelis die, the message from the UAE, Bahrain and other countries was to express remorse.
This is an important symbol, illustrating the strength and importance of the Abraham Accords. The accords have provided a stamp of approval for much wider relations between Israel and many Arab states. They have also opened up people-to-people exchanges and interactions. This has humanized both sides to each other and means that disasters like Meron now strike a larger cord in the region.
If for years Israelis were either ignored or their lives seen as less important, today things have changed. These are small changes that generally are trickling down from the top, because the condolences mostly come from the top echelons of these countries and a few people online who have generally been part of the vanguard involved in coexistence.
Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry joined others on Friday, saying that “we express our sincere condolences and sympathy to the victims of the stampede that took place today in northern Israel and claimed dozens of lives. We also wish a speedy recovery for all of the injured.”
Turkey also issued a statement of condolences.
In the UAE Dr. Majid Al-Sarrah wrote that he was “sending my sincere condolences and prayers to all those who lost their lives and to their families during the sad event at Mount Meron in Israel. May they all Rest In Peace! Sending love and support from UAE.”
In Bahrain, Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani sent a condolence message to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. He expressed sadness at “the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron.”
The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities also wrote that it “expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families affected by the Lag Ba’omer tragedy in Meron. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” Loay Alshareef and other notable individuals from the Gulf also wrote their condolences.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani (@bahdiplomatic) sent a condolence message to Israel’s Foreign Minister @Gabi_Ashkenazi on the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron which claimed the lives of 44 people. FM Al Zayani expressed his heartfelt sympathy. RIP pic.twitter.com/lLFtI9s1uC
— Houda Nonoo (@hnonoo75) April 30, 2021
The messages from the Gulf and from Egypt, Turkey and other countries in the region reveal the larger changes taking place after the peace deals.
It was last June when the peace deal first appeared possible, as the UAE took steps forward to send humanitarian aid to Israel via direct flights and the Emirati Ambassador in Washington wrote an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper.
Now, slightly less than a year later, the tragedy at Meron shows how people can come together in the region.