TEL AVIV – Bahrain’s only synagogue was brought to life on Wednesday morning as President Donald Trump’s Special Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt was joined by Jewish businessmen, reporters and rabbis for morning prayers on the sidelines of the U.S.-led economic peace workshop.
The synagogue — the only recognized Jewish house of prayer in the Gulf — has 34 members, but according to Houda Nonoo, a Jewish diplomat who served as the Bahraini Ambassador to the United States, Wednesday morning was the first time the synagogue had seen prayers with a minyan (quorum).
“I was very moved. It’s a historic moment. For the first time in my life, I saw a prayer service with a minyan in my synagogue,” Nonoo told the Times of Israel.
A video filmed at the service shows Greenblatt and the others in prayer shawls and phylacteries dancing around the bimah and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” — the people of Israel live.
“A special opportunity to daven(pray) this morning with a minyan(quorum) in a synagogue in Bahrain,” Greenblatt tweeted. “Great way to start today. I was asked what I prayed for — two things: my family, who I miss deeply and of course for peace.”
“This is an example of the future we can all build together,” he added.
The prayer service was organized by Times of Israel correspondent Raphael Ahren and attended by interfaith activist Rabbi Marc Schneier, Middle East scholar David Makovsky, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger, as well as a few Israeli businessmen and reporters.
A special opportunity to daven(pray) this morning with a minyan(quorum) in a synagogue in Bahrain. Great way to start today. I was asked what I prayed for- two things: my family, who I miss deeply and of course for peace. This is an example of the future we can all build together pic.twitter.com/kqHlEZyvoT
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) June 26, 2019
Rabbi Hier led prayers after which one worshiper delivered a sermon about the weekly Torah reading.
“That’s the secret of the Jewish people — whenever you step into a shul, wherever you are in the world, you feel like home,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, also from the Wiesenthal Center, using the yiddish word for synagogue.
Built in the 1930s, the Manama synagogue was vandalized in 1947 following the United Nations Partition Plan that called for the creation of both a Jewish and a Palestinian state.
“I was very moved by the united sense of Jews from all over, getting together in a synagogue that hasn’t had a minyan in close to 75 years, and singing together Am Yisrael Chai,” said Canadian rabbi and businessman Mayer Gniwish.
Officials from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and business delegations from Israel and other countries are attending the two-day Manama summit. The Palestinian leadership has snubbed both the summit and the economic portion of the peace plan unveiled by the White House.