Bahrain’s Jewish cemetery: A look into Jewish life in the Muslim land

The cemetery is in an older part of the city next to a Christian cemetery, and across the street from a Muslim one.

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June 30, 2019 01:04
1 minute read.
Bahrain’s Jewish cemetery: A look into Jewish life in the Muslim land

Jewish cemetery in Manama. (photo credit: HERB KEINON)

MANAMA, Bahrain – The outer gate to the Jewish cemetery here, a yellow metal gate over two meters high, provides the first indication that this is not a well-traveled site.

The gate, secured with a padlock, barely opens, allowing just enough room for one person to squeeze through.

When you do squeeze through there is another gate to get past, this time blue but also padlocked, though it is easier to open. What lies behind is a dirt plot of land, with a few palm trees located in the back and on the sides that provides but scant shelter from Manama’s unrelenting heat. For over a century, this has served as the cemetery for Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community.
The community today numbers only some 35 people, just a skeleton of the 1,500 Jews – mostly immigrants from Iraq – who lived there as its peak in 1947.

The cemetery is in an older part of the city next to a Christian cemetery, and across the street from a Muslim one.
Houdie Nonoo, a former Bahrani ambassador to the US, ushers a colleague and myself into the cemetery, which is almost never open to outsiders, and goes directly to the grave of her father.

It is one of only a few of the nearly 100 graves that are marked, and one of the only ones that gives any clue this is a Jewish cemetery: His name, Daud Abraham Nonoo, appears in Hebrew.

Rounded cement mounds cover most of the graves. Some of the mounds are very small, indicating a child’s grave. Nonoo said there is not a map identifying each grave. I did not see a single Star of David in the cemetery.

Most of the people buried in the cemetery were buried before 1960, said Nonoo, whose family maintains the grave site. The last person buried there was her uncle, who died in September 2018.

There are no well-known rabbis or sages buried there who would make it a pilgrimage site. One grave she pointed out was that of Heskail Abraham Ezra, who was killed during Ramadan in 1974. Nonoo, the former ambassador who seemed keen on not painting Bahrain in any kind of a negative light, stressed his murder was criminally, not nationally, motivated.


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