This month, Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and all the Holy Days are particularly meaningful for the faithful remnant of Jews in Bahrain. Thanks to the new openness from the Abraham Accords, the Jewish community of the Gulf state of Bahrain is worshipping out in the open for the first time since 1947.
“We’re very happy to be out in the open,” 61-year-old Ebrahim Nonoo said. The small community of 50 Jews doesn’t have a rabbi yet, but Nonoo is leading the services in the newly renovated Manama synagogue.
Bahrain’s only synagogue was destroyed in 1947 at the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict when Israel gained statehood. Many Jews fled the country, but a handful remained and took their faith out of the spotlight and behind closed doors. The world focuses on the Palestinian refugee issue but ignores the 600,000 Jews who fled Arab countries for Israel in the wake of her birth. In Iraq alone, Jews had to leave behind $30 billion in assets. Israel successfully absorbed these new immigrants, while the Arab world has done little for the Palestinians who fled the newly birthed Israel, as the Arab leaders urged them. They promised them that after the war, they could return and have even more lands. No one expected Israel to win!
Through the years, Jews have still had a place in Bahraini business and public life, however. Nancy Khedouri is a Bahraini Jewish member of parliament, and she is hopeful that last year’s Abraham Accords and the normalization of ties between Israel and Bahrain will be a boon for the nation and her faith community.
“Many more people from the Jewish faith are interested to travel to the region, dreaming up new opportunities, enthusiastic to learn from those already living in the Gulf region. Those visiting will definitely contribute to tourism and economic growth.”
Nonoo hopes to establish a yeshiva (religious school) next door to the Manama synagogue and help revitalize their tiny community by attracting young families.
“Our target is to have a rabbi, a young rabbi here in Bahrain, to develop Jewish life and to get to know the community and to be able to offer services to them on a weekly basis. This will help develop the community in Bahrain.”
On Tuesday, Bahrain’s 1st ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma, presented his credentials to Israel President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.
“Brave states take brave steps,” Herzog told Jalahma. “The Abraham Accords were the fruit of both vision and power.” And Herzog praised Bahrain as “a model for the whole Middle East.”
Jalahma called it “a great honor” to be the first ambassador in the post. He wished Israel’s citizens “health, well-being, stability, and prosperity.”
Both nations are concerned about the mutual threat of a nuclear Iran. Reports indicate that the Islamic Republic is only a month away from acquiring a nuclear weapon.