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  JEWS OF BAHRAIN      יהודי בחריין    
 
 
  BAHRAIN  
 
HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN BAHRAIN:
 
Bahraini Jews constitute one of the world's smallest Jewish communities. Bahrain was, at one time, home to as many as 1,500 Jews. Today the community has a synagogue and small Jewish cemetery and numbers thirty-seven persons.
There are Talmudic references made of a Jewish community dating back in the geographic areas of present-day Bahrain, as well as references in Arabic texts to a Jewish presence in Hajar during Mohammed's time.

Early History

Benjamin of Tudela recorded in the 12th century that nearly 500 Jews lived in Qays and that a population of 5,000 resided in al-Qatifa. Benjamin also recounted that these Jews controlled the local pearl industry.

Bahraini Jewish author Nancy Khadhori has written a book, From Our Beginning to Present Day about the Bahraini Jewish community:

...it purports to trace the history of modern Bahrain's Jewish community from its origins in the 1880s, with Iraqi Jewish traders from the Yadgar family, through the 36-member Jewish community of today. Bahraini Jews are well integrated into the life of the 700,000-person island kingdom, with Jewish government officials such as former Shura Council member Abraham David Nonoo and Khedouri's own family, Bahrain’s leading importer of tablecloths and linens. Bahrain was, at one time, home to as many as 1,500 Jews, according to the author.
Khadhori explained, "Most of the Jewish men were traders and the women worked as teachers, nurses, and from the very start developed strong bonds of friendship with the local citizens."
Ms. Khadhori was quoted by the Gulf News as saying that her book "shows how Bahrain has practiced religious tolerance all these years and how privileged everyone should feel to be living in this beautiful Kingdom, which has always offered and will continue to offer peace and security to all its citizens." In an earlier interview, with the Bahrain Tribune, Khedouri said, "The peaceful co-existence we have with the Bahrainis is proof of the religious tolerance advocated by His Majesty the King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa."
...Before the establishment of the State of Israel, nearly 600 Jews lived in Bahrain, but many fled in the wake of anti-Semitic rioting in 1947-48 and again in 1967. Currently, Bahraini Jews are not allowed to visit Israel, although, officially, Bahrain agreed to cease adherence to the economic boycott of Israel in exchange for a free-trade agreement with the United States in 2004.

According to a Jewish Virtual Library entry by Jewish researcher, Ariel Scheib, Jews have lived in what became the modern kingdom of Bahrain since the times of the Talmud. He further stated that it is mentioned in Arabian sources that Jews lived in Hajar, the capital of Bahrain, in 630 AD and refused to convert to Islam when Muhammad sent an army to occupy the territory.

Modern Times

Various sources cite Bahrain's Jewish community as being from 36 to 50 people.  and is the only Arab Persian Gulf state with a synagogue. Jews are one of several communities that form the core of the liberal middle classes and several are even active in politics: a Jewish businessman, Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo, sits in the appointed upper house of parliament and a Jewish woman, Houda Ezra Nonoo heads a human rights group which has campaigned against the reintroduction of the death penalty in the tiny Kingdom. Neither are considered controversial figures, even among Salafist politicians.

The modern Jewish community in Bahrain dates from the beginning of the twentieth century when families immigrated from the large Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad. At its height it is said to have over six hundred people, although it declined after the establishment of the State of Israel and the Six-Day War. There were riots in 1948, but Houda Nonoo told The Independent newspaper: "I don't think it was Bahrainis who were responsible. It was people from abroad. Many Bahrainis looked after Jews in their houses." This view is supported by Sir Charles Belgrave, formerly a political adviser to the government of Bahrain – which at the time was subject to treaty relations with Britain – who recalled in a memoir: "The leading Arabs were very shocked ... most of them, when possible, had given shelter and protection to their Jewish neighbours... [the riots] had one surprising effect; it put an end to any active aggression by the Bahrain Arabs against the Bahrain Jews."

As of 2007, the Jewish population of Bahrain numbers approximately 36

At this time, the tolerance extended to the island's Jewish community is the result of the policy of its leader, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa. The island's boycott of Israeli products was in effect until 2004, when a free-trade agreement with the United States put an end to the official boycott.

At present, there have been no acts of physical violence or harassment of Jews or vandalism of Jewish community institutions, such as schools, cemeteries, or the synagogue. Although the Government has not enacted any laws protecting the right of Jews to religious freedom; however, it has not interfered with their freedom to practice. The Government has made no effort specifically to promote antibias and tolerance education. Some anti-Semitic political commentary and editorial cartoons continue to appear, usually linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jews practice their faith privately without interference from the Government.

Bahrain has nominated Houda Nonoo, a Jewish woman who previously served in the nation's 40-member lower house of Parliament, as its ambassador to the United States.

In November, 2010, Nancy Khadhori was appointed to replace Ms. Nonoo in Parliament.

US Jewish soldiers in Bahrain

A news report describes the preparations for US troops stationed in Bahrain:

NEW YORK - The Jewish members of America's armed forces will again receive kosher K-rations this Pesach throughout the holiday, provided by the U.S. Defense Department.

Thousands of packages containing kosher for Pesach MREs (meals ready to eat) have already reached U.S. army and navy supply bases, with special shipments aimed at Jewish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan...

The Jewish Chaplains Council estimates that the number of Jews stationed in Iraq is between 500 and 600. Of the 30 Jewish chaplains on active duty around the world, eight chaplains are stationed in Iraq, including two female rabbis.

Each chaplain stationed in Iraq will hold two seders at base camps, with central seders taking place in Baghdad, Falluja and Tikrit. There will also be two seders at the army headquarters in Bahrain, and air force headquarters in Qatar. Jewish soldiers stationed in remote locations will be able to attend seders led by soldiers who received special training for that purpose.

Ebrahim Doud Nonoo, a former member of the National Assembly of Bahrain, and the owner of The Basma Company,

financed in 2006 repairs to the country's only synagogue.

 

 


 

 

 
 

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