(JTA) — Ebrahim Dahood Nonoo, the chief of Bahrain’s tiny Jewish group, was among the many Gulf nation’s roughly 50 Jews who thought peace with Israel would by no means arrive “in our lifetimes.”
“It simply didn’t appear attainable,” Nonoo informed the Jewish Telegraphic Company from Manama, the capital metropolis the place he lives together with his spouse.
Tuesday’s signing of the agreements known as the Abraham Accords is anticipated to open up routes for collaboration, commerce and journey between Bahrain and Israel, which had all been restricted. It would have a big influence on Bahrain’s Jews, lots of whom have kinfolk in Israel they haven’t been capable of go to.
Bahrain’s Jews weren’t the one ones shocked when President Donald Trump introduced that he had brokered peace agreements between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, inside a month of one another.
Israel solely has relations with two different Arab nations within the area, and most of its neighbors have lengthy remoted the Jewish state and at instances even gone to battle with it.
“We will speak to our kinfolk and we will really feel extra comfy now about going and coming. It really modifications rather a lot,” mentioned Nonoo, a businessman who in 2001 turned the primary Jewish individual appointed to serve on to the nation’s Shura Council, the higher chamber of its Nationwide Meeting.
The Jewish community in Bahrain, an island nation of some 1.5 million folks, dates again about 140 years to the late 1800s, when a gaggle of Iraqi Jews arrived looking for financial alternatives. Many had been poor and lacked training however discovered jobs, and finally success, within the clothes trade. Nonoo’s grandfather got here as a 12-year-old collectively together with his uncle and located a job choosing silver threads out of discarded attire and promoting them.
“They had been type of misfits popping out of Iraq,” Nonoo mentioned of the primary arrivals. “In different phrases, they weren’t getting wherever in Iraq, in order that they determined to strive their luck in Bahrain.”
A smaller variety of Jews additionally settled in Bahrain from Iran at across the similar time. At its peak within the 1920s and ’30s, the group had about 800 members, in response to Nonoo, although others have mentioned the quantity was as excessive as 1,500. Although group members combined socially with Bahraini Muslims, they primarily married inside the group and lived shut to one another in Manama. Members continued to talk a Jewish dialect of Iraqi Arabic and nonetheless do.
In 1935, a member of the Cartier household, the Jewish clan who based the eponymous jewellery firm, handed by on a enterprise journey and ended up donating cash to construct a synagogue and usher in a rabbi, in response to Nonoo. Over the following 10 years, the group continued to flourish economically and gathered within the synagogue for companies.
“[That] was a implausible time for all of them,” Nonoo mentioned.
However issues took a flip for the more severe following the 1947 U.N. Partition vote, which really helpful the creation of a Jewish state in then-Palestine alongside an Arab one. The transfer led to anti-Semitic riots all through the Arab world, together with in Bahrain.
A bunch of rioters — Nonoo mentioned they had been migrants from different Arab international locations — burned the synagogue to the bottom and stole the nation’s solely Torah scroll. A lot of the group left after the assault or within the decade and a half following, settling in Israel.
The few who remained or their descendants make up the 50 or so Jews dwelling within the nation. There’s an lively Jewish cemetery, however the synagogue — rebuilt by Nonoo’s father within the 1980s — by no means formally reopened and a lot of the group continues to hope at residence. Nonoo is renovating the constructing and hopes to reopen it subsequent yr as a home of worship and museum.
And on Monday, Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law who serves as his senior adviser, gifted Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa a Torah scroll for the synagogue.
A lot of the group members at this time are financially profitable and proceed to be represented within the Shura Council, which has designated a seat every for representatives of the nation’s Jewish and Christian populations. Nonoo’s successor was Houda Nonoo, who later went on to function Bahraini ambassador to the USA. She was succeeded by Nancy Khedouri, a relative of the highly effective Kadoorie family, a Hong Kong-based Jewish household of Iraqi origin who went on to grow to be one of many wealthiest households in Asia (and transliterated the surname in another way). Houda Nonoo and Khedouri are Ebrahim Nonoo’s cousins.
“It’s certainly a privilege to be a part of the Legislation-making course of with my multi-faith Colleagues, the place all of us get pleasure from Equality and Freedom of Expression and the place we proceed to try to draft out Legal guidelines to be carried out, that will likely be honest, serving in one of the best pursuits of our Nation and to all Residents, no matter Non secular variations,” Khedouri informed JTA in an e-mail.
Nonetheless, the native Jewish group is growing old, as many younger folks go away to review overseas and sometimes select to stay in different international locations after their research — together with Nonoo’s kids, who each reside in the UK.
“Hopefully they’ll be again quickly,” he mentioned.
Nonoo hopes the brand new settlement with Israel will flip across the development and that plans to construct the Abrahamic Household Home, a website that can host a church, mosque and synagogue within the close by United Arab Emirates, might draw extra Jews to settle within the Gulf.
“We’re very, very glad to see that that’s going to be a spot that many Jews can keep within the UAE and construct up households there, so we’re hoping that with that we’ll get Jews coming to Bahrain,” he mentioned.
For his half, Nonoo doesn’t see himself settling wherever else.
“Our faith is Jewish, however actually our tradition could be very Arabic, and we really feel very at residence,” he mentioned. “I truthfully couldn’t see myself dwelling wherever else.”