Jewish Agency working to boost Jewish life in UAE, Bahrain

Herzog: ‘I truly believe this is a historic process of further inclusion of Israel in the region, and we should congratulate it’

RABBI MARVIN HIER (center) and Rabbi Abraham Cooper (right) of the Simon Wiesenthal Center meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, in February 2017.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
RABBI MARVIN HIER (center) and Rabbi Abraham Cooper (right) of the Simon Wiesenthal Center meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, in February 2017.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog has hailed the breakthrough in relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, saying his organization is already working to boost Jewish life in those countries.

“I truly believe this is a historic process of further inclusion of Israel in the region, and we should congratulate it,” Herzog told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s a unique and moving part of our history.”

Herzog was invited to the signing ceremony in Washington on Tuesday but was unable to attend for personal reasons.

He said a special working group has been established of officials from the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal and the Jewish Federations of North America, which has made contact with the leaders of the Jewish communities from the UAE and Bahrain.

The group will examine their communal needs and determine what these organizations can offer to Jews in the two Arab countries and how they can strengthen Jewish life there and their connection to Israel.

Jewish Agency emissaries are being sent to the UAE. It hopes to help organize Jewish summer camps, establish a Jewish community center and Hebrew-language programs there as well.

In Bahrain, the Jewish Agency is helping the community of 50 people to find a rabbi for at least a part-time position.

Separately, Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch spoke on Monday with Bahrain’s sole Jewish member of parliament, Nancy Khedouri.
“One of my goals that I have set is to connect to Jewish communities that no one has been in contact with, but I never expected I would have the merit to do so with countries that did not have ties to the State of Israel,” said Yankelevitch.

“I am looking forward to working together,” the minister said following her conversation with Khedouri.

The Bahraini parliament has little power, however, with the king controlling the legislature and appointing the prime minister and cabinet ministers. Main opposition parties have also been banned from running in elections to the parliament’s lower house, which the king is also able to dissolve.