Bahraini youths ‘clean’ site of king’s menorah-lighting party

Group calling itself ‘Bahrainis against normalization’ vows to ‘wipe this stain on the shining history of our lands’

A Bahraini man scrubs the site of a Hanukkah party hosted by the nation's king (screen capture: MEMRI)
A Bahraini man scrubs the site of a Hanukkah party hosted by the nation's king (screen capture: MEMRI)

A group of Bahraini youths posted a video showing the “cleansing” of a site in Manama where a menorah-lighting ceremony had been held, sanctioned by the king of the small Muslim monarchy.

A video from the ceremony, in which kaffiyeh-wearing sheikhs can be seen dancing with Orthodox Jews to Hasidic music, went viral on Facebook. The menorah-lighting was held on the first night of Hanukkah and was attended by Jews, businesspeople and other Bahrainis.

The video of the clean-up operation, filmed late last month and posted this week by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), shows the youths sweeping and scrubbing the floor where the ceremony was held, while wearing what look like lab coats bearing dates considered landmarks in Bahraini-Palestinian ties and support for the Palestinian cause.

While they are cleaning, unseen speakers vow to “redeem Palestine” and “wipe this stain on the shining history of our lands,” while adding that “we, the youth of Bahrain, will not forget our cause, and we will keep marching on this path until Palestine is regained — in its entirety.”

The video is interspersed images with of pro-Palestinian rallies in Bahrain, and at one point a picture is displayed of a 2012 meeting between Bahraini King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa and Hamas’s senior-most official in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, with a voice saying that Bahrain is “defending its just causes, first and foremost the Palestinian cause.”

Bahrain, a group of islands in the Persian Gulf with a population of 1.4 million, is the only Arab Gulf state that has a synagogue. The country had a Jewish population of some 1,500 Jews in 1948. However, after the declaration of the State of Israel many left, and almost all those who remained followed suit after 1967’s Six Day War. Today there are less than 50 Jews in the country.

The kingdom is also unique in that its ambassador to the US from 2008 to 2010 was Houda Nonoo, a Jewish woman who had formerly served in the nation’s parliament.

Last year was the first time that the king of Bahrain marked Hanukkah. He invited Conference of European Rabbis Director Rabbi Moshe Levin, who 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.

At that time the king welcomed his guests, saying that “the call to war against terror needs to come from the leaders of all the religions as one. 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.”

Hamas condemned the candle-lighting ceremony, saying in a statement days later that it was “amazed and deplored” that Bahrain had hosted “a Zionist, racist and extremist Jewish delegation and danced with them in a humiliating and disgraceful spectacle,” while calling on Bahrain to “fully stop any form of normalization with the Zionist enemy.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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