By Houda Nonoo
On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the completion of one year and the beginning of the next. It is a time when we set goals for the future. Rosh Hashanah this year coincides with the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, which is quite apropos because in many ways the themes of the two are very intertwined. As a Bahraini Jew, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities which are ahead for our two countries. This past year brought with it many opportunities, but I firmly believe that year two will be even more successful.
Rosh Hashanah last year was also a very exciting time. I was honored and privileged to participate in Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani’s delegation to Washington for the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the White House lawn on September 15, and we flew back to Bahrain just in time for Rosh Hashanah three days later. It was a whirlwind of a week – in the span of seven days, Bahrain and Israel announced their new relationship (September 11), the signing ceremony was four days later (September 15) and Rosh Hashanah was three days after (September 18). Just as we ushered in the Jewish new year, we were ushering a new relationship and opportunity for the region.
Over the past year, we have seen successful collaboration in business, healthcare, travel, tourism and social activities. However, I predict that next year we will see activity double in each of these sectors as well as some new areas of collaboration.
We will see partnerships in healthcare, technology (including fintech, greentech and agritech), cyber security and education. Many of the leading companies and organizations in both countries have spent the past year working behind the scenes to build relationships and discuss how they can work together. Our two nations share several joint priorities, which make us prime partners for knowledge sharing.
As soon as the direct flights start, we will see a deluge of tourism from both countries to the other. Bahrainis will have the opportunity to experience an Israeli breakfast and Israelis will have the opportunity to experience a Bahraini breakfast. We will continue to host each other in our homes and be reminded about how similar our backgrounds and cultures are. In many ways, COVID-19 hindered our ability to share these experiences this year but as more people are vaccinated, we are getting closer to opening the travel corridor that we have all been waiting for.
While there are certainly economic benefits to the Abraham Accords, I believe the most exciting element is the positive impact it has had on both of our people. Last December, Bahrainis and Emiratis visited Israel for Hanukkah and Israelis visited our countries. Since then, there have been a number of delegations. We are very proud of our young people who have joined organizations fostering connectivity among the next generation of leaders in the Middle East.
Similar to the theme of Rosh Hashanah, as we approach the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, we reflect on how far we have come over this past year and turn the page on the beginning of the next chapter in the story of the relationship between Bahrain and Israel. The signing of the Abraham Accords will no doubt be one of the biggest milestones in the Middle East in our lifetime and as we celebrate its first anniversary, it is an opportunity to reflect on this auspicious time for the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Israel and the region more broadly. It is also the time to look forward to the limitless opportunities ahead of us. As one of the few indigenous Jews in the Arabian Gulf, it is particularly meaningful to me. As a citizen of this region, I am filled with excitement to see the construction of a new Middle East, one focused on coexistence and prosperity for all.
On behalf of the Jewish community of Bahrain, we wish you a Shana Tova U’Metukah – a year of good health and happiness. We hope that you will come to visit us in the coming year and that we will have the opportunity to visit you in Israel once travel reopens.
The writer served as Bahrain’s ambassador to the US from 2008 to 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.