In an extraordinary meeting yesterday, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain expressed warm sentiments to the Jewish community, particularly the small Jewish community of Bahrain and the expatriate Bahraini Jewish community, many of whom flew in from various parts of the US to pay him respect during his visit to the US. During the meeting, which lasted the better part of an hour, the Gulf region leader spoke of his Jewish subjects who live in various places around the world, and his pride in the fact that Jewish life in his country never ended. “Some left, some returned, some come to visit. It is totally their choice”, said His Majesty, “I hope more will choose to come back. We have certain land reserved for those returning to Bahrain, and they are welcome to it like all our citizens.”
His Majesty was accompanied by two of his princes, one grandson, and several ministers, including his Foreign Minister, as well as the usual Royal staff, servants and military aides.
Earlier this year, His Majesty appointed a Jewish woman, Ms. Houda Ezra Nonoo, as his ambassador to Washington, DC. In his remarks, he also expressed delight at how people in his country pay respects to all, regardless of their particular faith. Asked whether he was trying to set an example for the region, he said “We aren’t trying to set an example for anybody. We just want to do what we believe is right.”
Participating in the meeting was Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, DC. After some brief remarks, Rabbi Shemtov rose to recite the blessing reserved for rulers and kings. The king rose to receive the blessing, and was most grateful for the gesture. His Majesty then personally invited Rabbi Shemtov to visit Bahrain, which he hopes to accept as soon as practical.