The official launch of a book written about the Jews of Bahrain is taking place on Tuesday in the small Gulf state's A'ali Shopping Complex, reports the Gulf Daily News, a Bahraini English-language newspaper. The book's author, Nancy Khedouri, herself a Bahraini Jew, says that her community suffers no discrimination in the Muslim Arab state.
The book is titled From Our Beginning to Present Day and it purports to trace the history
Bahraini Jews are well integrated into the life of the 700,000-person island kingdom.
of modern Bahrain's Jewish community from its origins in the 1880s, with Iraqi Jewish traders from the Yadgar family, through the 36-member Jewish community of today. Bahraini Jews are well integrated into the life of the 700,000-person island kingdom, with Jewish government officials such as former Shura Council member Abraham David Nonoo and Khedouri's own family, Bahrain’s leading importer of tablecloths and linens. Bahrain was, at one time, home to as many as 1,500 Jews, according to the author.
Khedouri explained, "Most of the Jewish men were traders and the women worked as teachers, nurses, and from the very start developed strong bonds of friendship with the local citizens."
Ms. Khedouri was quoted by the Gulf News as saying that her book "shows how Bahrain has practiced religious tolerance all these years and how privileged everyone should feel to be living in this beautiful Kingdom, which has always offered and will continue to offer peace and security to all its citizens." In an earlier interview, with the Bahrain Tribune, Khedouri said, "The peaceful co-existence we have with the Bahrainis is proof of the religious tolerance advocated by His Majesty the King, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa."
King Khalifa received Khedouri when her book first appeared. The king emphasized the importance of such books in documenting the history of Bahrain, the Tribune reported.
Before the establishment of the State of Israel, nearly 600 Jews lived in Bahrain, but many fled in the wake of anti-Semitic rioting in 1947-48 and again in 1967. Currently, Bahraini Jews are not allowed to visit Israel, although, officially, Bahrain agreed to cease adherence to the economic boycott of Israel in exchange for a free-trade agreement with the United States in 2004.
Bahrain currently boasts a synagogue, as well as a Jewish cemetery. The former, according to a Jewish Virtual Library entry by Ariel Scheib, remains a Jewish house of prayer thanks to the Bahraini government. Seeing that the synagogue now stands locked and empty, with so few Jews and most holidays marked in community homes, the local Jewish leadership sought to donate or convert the structure; however, the king insisted that it remain a synagogue.
There remains a Jewish house of prayer thanks to the Bahraini government.
Khedouri described the religious life of her community to the Bahrain Tribune: "We are not a deeply religious or orthodox people in the true sense of the word. Our religious practices are often confined to our homes. Fasting is among the most important of religious rites and observed in September-October. The religious festivals are Passover and the Jewish New Year. Some of the older generation observe the Sabbath, with lighting the Sabbath candles."
In his research, Scheib noted that Jews have lived in what became the modern kingdom of Bahrain since the times of the Talmud. "It was also recorded in Arabic sources that Jews lived in Hajar, the capital of Bahrain, in 630 CE and refused to convert to Islam when Muhammad sent an army to occupy the territory," according to Scheib.