Association aims to support and rebuild Jewish life in the Gulf

Published: May 6, 2021

By Yoni Kempinski

In the Abraham Accords era, Muslims in Bahrain are “joining together” with the local Jewish community, says group’s president.

With the signing of the Abraham Accords, a new era is beginning for the Gulf’s Jewish communities.

This is especially evident in Bahrain, where the country’s Jewish community has been hosting events with Bahraini Muslims where each group has been learning about the other’s religion.

Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, head of the Bahraini Jewish community and President of the newly formed Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, said that local Muslims have told him that many of aspects of the Jewish religion they are learning about are very much a part of the Muslim religion.

“They are looking at similarities, they are looking at where commonalities exist and it’s a very interesting time,” said Nonoo in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva.

At these inter-faith events hosted by the Bahraini Jewish community, it is being demonstrated that both Jews and Muslims “fit very well (together).”

Muslims have already made visits to the synagogue and some of them have prayed there with Bahrain’s Jews.

“Their hands are joining together with us,” said Nonoo. “In religious terms, they accept us as Jews, and they accept our religion as Jewish.”

They recently held a Lag B’Omer event that was a big success. It was a “very nice event” that helped to bring together Jews and Muslims.

In the near future, they will be including even more of the Muslim community in upcoming events.

“It’s through a process of time that we can convince people to look at the commonalities that we have between us,” he said.

Nonoo mentioned that many people are not aware that Moses is shared by both the Jewish and Muslim religions.

“For them the prophet Moses is listed more times in the Koran than the prophet Mohammed,” he said. “When you talk to them about the Ten Commandments, they are aware that the Koran also lists the Ten Commandments in a very similar fashion to the way it’s listed in the Torah.”

The newly formed Association of Gulf Jewish Communities has a mandate to “be able to support the communities that exist in and around the Gulf” with issues such as providing holy books, beit din, facilities, rabbinical services, Passover and kosher foods and to help set up functions in Bahrain for other local communities.

Nonoo stressed that besides the UAE, the other Jewish communities in the Gulf region are “very tiny.” The new association will be essential to ensure these communities grow and prosper.

“The idea is that where there are Jews anywhere in the Gulf, they should be supported in terms of whatever events they might require… for the support of Jewish life in the Gulf,” he said.

Nonoo is very optimistic as he sees Jews moving to the Gulf for new life and work opportunities, and building up existing small Jewish communities. “This is the only way that we’re going to be able to create a kind of Jewish life as it was in the old days in Bahrain,” he said.

Bahrain experienced the pandemic in a similar manner to Israel. And with the situation looking much better now, they are looking forward to flights directly to and from Israel beginning on June 2.

Nonoo knows of three or four Israeli business people who have already made plans to travel to Bahrain to spend time there and learn about business opportunities.

He’s looking forward to receiving visitors, and to have Jewish tourists see the fully functioning synagogue, which was recently given the Torah gifted to Bahrain’s king by Jared Kushner.

He said there’s been an incredible amount of interest from Americans and Israelis about visiting and meeting the Jewish community.

“We’ve had plenty of visitors already (who) have seen what Bahrain is like, and they were very impressed,” he said. “They probably had an idea that Bahrain is a very moderate, all encompassing center but also they realized that Bahrainis themselves are very much adopted to the idea of encompassing tolerance.”