Cemetery fund vow

Published: January 12, 2022

A NEW fund has been launched to help maintain the more than 100-year-old Jewish cemetery in Manama – the only one still operational in the Gulf.

The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC) said it will launch the fund-raising project on Sunday to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, also known as the ‘New Year of the Trees’.

The day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day, and trees are planted in celebration.

“We are excited to mark Tu B’Shevat by planting trees in the cemetery,” AGJC head Ebrahim Nonoo told the GDN yesterday.

“If it wasn’t for the signing of the Abraham Accords, we may not have a proper Jewish community in Bahrain in the next 10 years.”

Mr Nonoo said there are more than 80 graves in the Jewish cemetery located in Manama, in close proximity to a Christian church and a Muslim cemetery.

“The last burial at the cemetery was that of my father, in 2018.

“A rabbi is also buried in this cemetery, which is the only operational one in the GCC.

“For more than 100 years, our family members have been buried here and we are planning to ensure that the cemetery is properly maintained for generations to come.”

Dubai-based spiritual leader Rabbi Dr Elie Abadie said yesterday that planting trees in the cemetery was akin to “bringing life back to those that have lived in the beautiful community in Bahrain for centuries and made their resting place in Bahrain for eternity.

“As our ancestors planted in their generation for the benefit of our generation, so too we plant in this generation for the benefit of future generations,” he added.

For more information on the fund, and to donate, email [email protected].

Mr Nonoo was the first Jewish representative in the Shura Council in 2001.

Bahrain was once home to around 2,000 Jewish families, many having migrated here from Iraq and other countries, though only 35 members remain now.

The families migrated from Iraq in the 1880s for better economic prospects, and some of them run successful businesses today.

Bahrain is also home to the Gulf’s only synagogue, The House of Ten Commandments, located in Sasa’ah Avenue, in the old Manama Suq. It was closed for decades, and opened only for occasional prayer services and on special occasions.

It underwent a major facelift and has been turned into a worship and cultural centre, featuring books and a gift shop.

The synagogue also has a Torah scroll specially made for, and presented to, His Majesty King Hamad in 2020 by senior adviser to former US president Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, to replace the one that was stolen when the synagogue was ransacked in 1947.

The Torah scrolls – containing all five books of Moses and made for worship in a synagogue – were stolen but later returned to a synagogue in London by a man in the UK in the 1980s.

Mr Nonoo said they were witnessing a good footfall of visitors to the synagogue.

Bahrain accepted Trump’s invitation to join Israel and UAE at the signing ceremony of the peace deal, known as the Abraham Accords, in 2020 at the White House.

Since then, Israeli and Bahraini officials have met on several occasions, with agreements being signed on Israel opening its mission in Manama last year and Bahrain opening its mission in Tel Aviv.

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