A senior adviser to the king of Bahrain and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan both tweeted out Rosh Hashanah greetings just days after their countries signed historic normalization agreements with the Jewish state.
“Wishing my Yehudi (Jewish) friends in Bahrain and around the world a prosperous Shana Tovah,” wrote Khalid al-Khalifa, a diplomatic adviser to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Bahrain is home to a tiny Jewish community and has long been tolerant of all religions, but until recently there was no public Jewish life in the kingdom.
Jews, mostly of Iraqi origin, have been living in the kingdom since the 1880s.
— خالد بن أحمد (@khalidalkhalifa) September 18, 2020
The community welcomed Bahrain’s normalization with Israel, calling it “a historic moment that we have never expected to see in our lifetime.”
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, gave King Hamad a Torah scroll on a visit to Bahrain earlier this month.
Trump announced last Friday that Bahrain would follow the UAE’s lead and establish diplomatic ties with Israel. White House envoy Avi Berkowitz posted a photo on Twitter of Kushner presenting the Torah as representatives from Israel, the UAE and Bahrain prepared for the Tuesday signing ceremony at the White House.
Al Nahyan followed up his Bahraini colleague’s post with a Hebrew tweet of his own, in which he wished his followers a “happy new year.”
— عبدالله بن زايد (@ABZayed) September 18, 2020
In recent years, the UAE has made great efforts to portray itself as a tolerant country welcoming all religions, including Judaism. President Khalifa bin-Zayed al-Nahyan declared 2019 to be the “The Year of Tolerance” in the UAE. In this context, the country announced the building of a massive interfaith compound in Abu Dhabi that will also include a synagogue. The so-called Abrahamic Family House is slated to open in 2022.
A Jewish community has been operating in Dubai for a decade, initially with tacit support but more recently with overt backing from the local authorities, and is currently in the process of officially becoming a licensed religious community.
Estimates of how many Jews currently live in the UAE range from the low hundreds to 1,500. There are three different congregations — two Orthodox and one egalitarian — and one kosher catering business in the country, called “Elli’s Kosher Kitchen,” which has also garnered a lot of attention, including UAE Culture Minister Noura al-Kaabi hailing it as a new chapter in “Gulf food history.”