Commemorating the Holocaust while building a more tolerant Middle East

Published: April 20, 2021

By Houda Nonoo

As a Jew living in the Muslim world, I am often asked if it is safe to be Jewish in Bahrain. My answer is emphatically yes.

 Today, we pay tribute to the memory of six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Their only crime was that they were Jewish. The heinous atrocities of the Holocaust happened because the world let blatant intolerance seep into our society. Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, those of us in Bahrain commemorate the travesty of the Holocaust while remaining appreciative of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and our government for leading the region in building a more tolerant society.

As a Jew living in the Muslim world, I am often asked if it is safe to be Jewish in Bahrain. My answer is emphatically yes. In fact, when I read the newspaper or turn on the news and see reports of antisemitism on the rise in the United States and Europe, it reminds me how lucky I am to be Jewish in our country. Under His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s leadership, Bahrain has been committed to spreading the culture of peace, dialogue and coexistence. These values of tolerance and coexistence are ingrained within us as children. While many people in the Gulf have recently partaken in different tolerance initiatives, tolerance is part of our very core.

This past October, H.E. Dr. Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, chairman of the board of trustees of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence, and Elan S. Carr, former US Department of State special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on antisemitism in Washington. The document outlined goals to eradicate antisemitism and promote respect and peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jewish people through education and programs.

The MoU states, “His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has made it a top priority for Bahrain to lead the Middle East toward a future of tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation between Muslims and Jews.” Coexistence is something that we feel every day in Bahrain. We recognize how lucky we are to live in a society where respect for all religions – including Judaism – is a top priority. It is something that is inculcated within our children from a young age, and as they become the next generation of leaders in government, academia and business, they bring with them a culture of understanding and tolerance which in turn creates a better society.

One of the key components of the MoU is cooperation on developing educational programs to teach the children of the Middle East the values of mutual respect, appreciation and peaceful coexistence. While we are honored to lead the charge, it is important that it’s something we do together with our neighbors in the Gulf and the broader Arab world. Additionally, Bahrain continues to put a focus on working with the United States to share and promote best practices for combating all forms of antisemitism.

As antisemitism continues to rise in the West, we are thankful that it has not reared its ugly head here in Bahrain and more broadly in the Gulf. We put a constant and consistent emphasis on teaching tolerance and understanding that in turn permeates into all corners of society. I am incredibly grateful to be a Jew living in Bahrain and do not take it for granted. I am confident that you will feel the same when you come and visit Bahrain.

The writer served as Bahrain’s ambassador to the US from 2008-2013. She currently serves on the board of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities and the House of the Ten Commandments (the Jewish Community of Bahrain). Follow her on Twitter @hnonoo75.

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