Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum in Bahrain to forge ties

Tourism and business opportunities between Israel and Bahrain are on the agenda

DEPUTY MAYOR Fleur Hassan-Nahoum: ‘There are things in this crisis that we can change now.’ (photo credit: NOAM FEINER)
DEPUTY MAYOR Fleur Hassan-Nahoum: ‘There are things in this crisis that we can change now.’
(photo credit: NOAM FEINER)
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum has spent the last week in Bahrain meeting locals, forging ties and talking about the new era of peace.
The momentous and important meetings come in the wake of the Abraham Accords and after her trip to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, where unprecedented Hanukkah celebrations took place.
“This country lives and breathes interfaith and coexistence,” she said in an interview.  
Bahrain has been supportive of peace and coexistence efforts for years. It joined the UAE this summer to support the Abraham Accords. Since then there have been two high-level ministerial visits from Bahrain, and the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence sent a delegation to Israel.
Hassan-Nahoum’s trip is a groundbreaking visit by an Israeli official and also is important because Hassan-Nahoum is a co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, a model that could be applied to Bahrain as well.  
“I am in Bahrain and it is a fascinating place,” she said this week. “It is the road less traveled so far in terms of the Abraham Accords. I am here to discuss tourism and business opportunities. Israelis and Jewish tourists will want to visit Bahrain and get an authentic Gulf experience here.”
On December 20 she tweeted how excited she was to be in Bahrain.  She was also featured in The Daily Tribune newspaper in Bahrain, a first for an Israeli official. Other social media posts show locals meeting the deputy mayor. She met Bahraini journalists, local women who are experts in their field, and members of the small Jewish community. The Jewish community of Bahrain dates to the 19th century and is unique in the Gulf.
“There is a lot of interest here to establish a Bahrain-Israel Business Council on the model of the success of the UAE-Israel Business Council that I co-founded with Dorian Barak,” said Hassan-Nahoum. “I’m excited for the meetings we have had here with government and business leaders. There are many tourism opportunities, which is part of my portfolio for Jerusalem. There is also a lot of interest by Muslims and Christians to come to Jerusalem.”
She noted that Bahrain is one of the most religiously diverse and pluralistic countries in the Gulf.
“I am connecting big travel companies here to tour operators in Israel and the Jewish world. The tourism here is very authentic, a truly unforgettable Arab and Middle Eastern experience.”
She said she thinks that when Jewish tourists see Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Bahrain will be a stop people are interested in because of its interfaith nature and its indigenous Jewish community.
For now, tourism will need to wait until at least January because there are no flights from Israel, and COVID restrictions will continue to affect trips from Israel.  
“We are building bridges, and hopefully some kind of entity similar to the UAE-Israel Business Council will emerge. I am also meeting high-level women for our Gulf-Israel women’s forum initiative.”
Hassan-Nahoum has met in the past with Bahrain’s pathbreaking ambassador Houda Nonoo, who is Jewish.  
The massive outpouring of support for the new era of peace in the region has seen Israelis flocking to Dubai. Israelis also took part, for the first time publicly, in diamond tenders, GITEX and an organic expo in Dubai.
Bahrain awaits these kinds of new firsts. The country already has at least one first in the region, its kosher cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton, Manama. In addition the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding launched the first North American-Jewish tourism initiative to Bahrain, in partnership with Best of Bahrain and Da’at Travel, on December 20.
The president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc Schneier, was in Manama for the announcement, part of his continuing work in the Gulf, where he has become an adviser to local leaders, pushing for peace in the region.