The king of Bahrain has hosted a candle-lighting ceremony at his palace to mark the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, bringing in a rabbi from Europe to conduct the service.
According to the Conference of European Rabbis, Monday’s ceremony in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, was the first of its kind in the Persian Gulf nation’s palace since the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Conference Director Rabbi Moshe Levin, who was invited by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, recited the traditional blessings while lighting the candles, and sang a verse of “Ma’oz Tzur,” the traditional Hanukkah hymn. Some 50 Jews were present for the ceremony.
“A little light drives off a lot of darkness,” Levin told the king, according to the press release. “Bahrain under your rule is a little light in a dark world of radical fundamentalism.”
BAHRAIN Wonderful! Rabbi Levin invited by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to pray & light Hanukkah candles at palace. pic.twitter.com/VYOVB5HjJb
— Children of Peace (@ChildrenofPeace) December 9, 2015
Levin is a close adviser to the chief rabbi of France, and also serves as rabbi of the French Gendarmerie, the nation’s police force. He arrived in Bahrain together with the French imam Hassan Chalghoumi, who also took part in the candle lighting.
“The call to war against terror needs to come from the leaders of all the religions as one,” said the king of Bahrain while welcoming his guests.
“Here in Bahrain members of all the religions live with no fear, and we will continue to allow Jews to live peacefully and quietly, maintaining their lifestyle, their customs and the commandments of their religion without any fear.”
Former Bahraini ambassador to the US and a member of the Jewish community Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo said that “since 1948 a Hanukkah candle hasn’t been lit in the synagogue in Bahrain.”
According to Israel National News, Levin sat next to the king as an open sign of recognition during a special interfaith meeting in which various representatives called to join forces in a war against terrorism and for true peace between the nations.
Levin then joined a special dinner held by the royal palace with Bahrain’s justice and interior ministers attending.
He said following his meetings there that King Al Khalifa “truly loves” the Jewish people and added that they are granted favorable conditions by the authorities under his rule.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.