Israel: On fringes of peace confab, rare prayer service brings Bahrain synagogue to life

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

On fringes of peace confab, rare prayer service brings Bahrain synagogue to life

Afterward, worshipers break out in song, hear Torah sermon as Houda Nonoo, a Jewish woman who served as Bahrain’s US ambassador, marvels: ‘It’s a historic moment’

Volume 90%

MANAMA, Bahrain — Businessmen, reporters, five rabbis and a senior White House official held rare morning prayers at the only officially declared synagogue in the Gulf Wednesday, on the edges of a peace conference being held in the tiny gulf kingdom that was once home to a thriving Jewish community.

At the end of the service, which took place on the sidelines of the US administration’s economic peace workshop held in Bahraini capital Manama, the men, clad in prayer shawls and phylacteries, broke out in song, walking around the bimah and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” — the people of Israel live.

The rare service was organized by this Times of Israel correspondent, with the help of Bahraini diplomat Houda Nonoo, who is Jewish, and the approval of authorities in Manama.

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center led prayers. After the service, one of the worshipers gave a sermon about the weekly Torah reading.

Prayers are not held on a regular basis at the synagogue, and are usually even closed for holidays and opened only for special occasions. The building housing the synagogue is unmarked.

Worshipers, including Trump administration Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt (left, seated) attend morning prayers at a synagogue in Manama, Bahrain, June 26, 2019 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Among the worshipers were Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special adviser for Middle East peace; interfaith activist Rabbi Marc Schneier; Middle East scholar David Makovsky; New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger; and a handful of Israeli businessmen and reporters attending the conference.

Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that he prayed for his family and for peace. “This is an example of the future we can all build together,” he wrote.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

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

215 people are talking about this

“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.

The Manama synagogue was built in the 1930s. It was ransacked in 1947 in the wake of the United Nations Partition Plan that called for the creation of both a Jewish and a Palestinian state within British Mandatory Palestine.

The unmarked entrance to the synagogue in Manama, Bahrain, June 26, 2019 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Nonoo, who served as Bahrain’s US ambassador a decade ago, and arranged for the synagogue to be opened on Wednesday, said that the prayer service was an emotional occasion for her.

“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, using the Hebrew term for the quorum of 10 men required for a full Jewish service.

The synagogue, located on Manama’s Sasaah Avenue, was renovated in 1997 and counts 34 members in its community. Prior to 1947, at its peak the community counted 1,500 Jews, mainly of Iraqi origin.

A shofar in the synagogue in Manama, Bahrain, June 26, 2019 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“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 businessman Mayer Gniwish, who is also a rabbi.

Bahrain has the only indigenous Jewish community in the Gulf, though Jewish businessmen, mainly from the US, frequent the region in increasing numbers.

Ten years ago, the Dubai Synagogue began operating as the sole institution of the Jewish community of the Emirates, welcoming veteran and temporary residents, as well as those on visits for business and pleasure.

The Trump administration kicked off its Israeli-Palestinian peace bid in Manama Tuesday, hoping to drum up billions of dollars to support a vision of a thriving Palestinian economy should a peace deal be reached.

The White House invited no Israeli officials, but Israeli members of the press, businessmen and civil society representatives are in attendance.

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Agree to Build New Causeway

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Agree to Build New Causeway

Saudi

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed on a plan to build a new road and rail causeway between the two countries and they hope private firms and the state can share the costs, risks and profits.

The new connection will help ease congestion on the existing link and will seek funding from the private sector, a document about the project showed.

The King Hamad Causeway is expected to cost $4 billion to $5 billion, according to sources who attended an industry consultation event in Manama.

The existing 25 km (16 mile) King Fahd causeway between the two countries has been open since 1986 and had average daily traffic of 31,000 passengers in 2016. But that is expected to double by 2030, the document distributed at the meeting showed.

Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia have historically financed infrastructure projects but while they still help with the cost of some, the oil price slump has forced them to slash spending and to consider bringing in private investment.

The meeting in Manama was attended by officials from the transportation ministries in the two countries and more than 150 companies that are expected to build the project using the public private partnership (PPP) model.

Besides a new four-lane road causeway running parallel to the existing one, there will be a new 70 km railway connecting a passenger terminal in Salmabad and freight facilities at Khalifa bin Salman port in Bahrain to the Saudi railway system.

Eight million passengers per year are expected to use the rail link by 2050 and some 600,000 containers and 13 million tonnes of bulk freight are expected to be transported by the railway, which could be developed under a design, build transfer, or design, build, maintain and transfer basis.

While the project’s technical details were clearly described in the document, key details of the PPP structure were still preliminary, said one of the sources.

The project is expected to be owned by the private sector through a new company with a 25-30-year PPP arrangement.

Private sector developers, co-investors, contractors and lenders should express their interest in the project by June 29, the document said. Advisers will be appointed in the first quarter of 2018 and pre-qualification requests are due to be issued in the second quarter of next year.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More PostsTwitterFacebookGoogle PlusYouTube

Bahrain Arrests 54 Members Of Iran-Linked Terrorist Cell

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Middle East

Bahrain Arrests Iran-Linked Terror Cell

 Bahrain goes through its fourth parliament election next month. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Manama – Bahrain said on Saturday it had uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked terror cell suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organizing a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons.

The organization includes 12 defendants in Iran and Iraq, another one in Germany and 41, including the 10 convicts who had escaped from prison, in Bahrain.

Manama frequently accuses Iran of fomenting civil unrest and supporting attacks against security forces, allegations which Tehran has long denied.

It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied kingdom, where the US Fifth Fleet is based.

Chief of Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed al-Hammadi has revealed the existence of a terrorist organization comprising 54 members.

Hammadi added that 25 members of the cell who had carried out acts of terror had been arrested and that the investigations by the Public Prosecution were still ongoing.

“The Public Prosecution had received a report from the General Director of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science on the search and investigation efforts regarding the escape of 10 convicts from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw on January 1, 2017 and which resulted in the death of a policeman from the prison guards force,” Hammadi announced.

Hamadi stressed that the investigations revealed that the movements of the terrorists to other countries were coordinated by one of the cell leaders based in Germany.

The leader made the arrangements for several members to go to Iran and Iraq to receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps ahead of carrying out their terrorist crimes in Bahrain.

The leaders and members of the organization had prepared and made plans for a number of terrorist crimes in order to disrupt public order, endanger the safety of the Kingdom, put its security at risk, undermine national unity and obstruct public authorities from carrying out their work, Hammadi added.

Advocate General stressed that, based on the information confirmed by the investigations and the sufficient and acceptable evidence about the crime details and the perpetrators, the Public Prosecution issued a warrant to inspect the locations identified by the confessions and testimonies in order to seize the explosives, firearms, ammunition, documents and tools related to the crimes and stored by the suspects.

Public Prosecution inspected the crime scenes, confiscated all the seized items and ordered the competent technical authorities to examine the evidence and draft reports.

He added that the security authorities arrested several suspects in accordance with the provisions of the law that protect society from acts of terrorism.

The suspects were referred to the public prosecutor who questioned them in accordance with the prescribed legal procedures.

Advocate General also said that the investigations and the confessions of the suspects revealed the facts about the establishment of the terrorist organization and its composition as well as how the fugitives in Iran and Iraq communicated with its members in the Kingdom in the prison and outside to recruit other elements and provide them with explosives, firearms and ammunition of various kinds that had been smuggled into the country.

They also provided them with the necessary funds for their livelihood and for the activities of the organization and coordinated with the fugitive leader in Germany to arrange the travel of some members to Iran to be trained on the use of explosives and firearms in the Revolutionary Guard camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist crimes in Bahrain.

The members provided them with plans to commit terrorist operations, the means to prepare their implementation, the weapons and explosives as well as the means to film them with drones to broadcast them for propaganda purposes.

Regarding the explosives, firearms and ammunition found in a boat in the Nabih Saleh area, investigations revealed they were part of the schemes by the leaders and members of the terrorist organization to smuggle them from Iran and Iraq into Bahrain via the sea and to use them in their terrorist crimes.

Hamamdi added that the breakout from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw was planned in order to enable the terror convicts to escape and carry out attacks in Bahrain and, for some of them, to go abroad and join the organization leaders in Iran and Iraq.

The jail break, carried out with the assistance of four members of the organization from outside the prison, resulted in the escape of 10 convicts and the martyrdom of one policeman.

In the shooting of a policeman in the Bani Jamra area case, investigations revealed that the terrorist crime was committed by a number of the organization members who were not among the prison fugitives.

The attack was committed as part of the organization’s activities under the instructions of its leaders abroad to disrupt public order and to target policemen.

Hammadi stressed that the murder of a police officer in the Bilad al-Qadeem area was plotted by one of the organization’s leaders in Iran and a member in Bahrain.

The murderer who knew the personal and professional status of the victim monitored his movements before killing him with a machine gun supplied by the organization’s leaders.

Regarding the case of resisting the authorities and shooting police officers in Bahrain’s territorial waters, Hammadi said that it was in the context of an attempt to smuggle ten accused members of the organization abroad.

The individuals being smuggled out included a convicted fugitive from the Jaw prison, three who participated in carrying out the jailbreak and the organization member who killed the police officer.

The police warned the suspects who responded by opening fire on them. Yet, the policemen were forced to exchange fire with the suspects, killing three of them and wounding others.

The defendants indicated to the investigators the locations where they hid the explosives and firearms that had been supplied by the organization’s leaders abroad for use in terrorist crimes.

The Public Prosecution subsequently issued warrants to seize all the items discovered in the hideouts, including the firearm which had been taken from a police officer during the escape from the Jaw prison.

The investigations resulted in the seizure of large quantities of explosives, detonators, grenades, firearms, automatic machine guns, guns, and ammunition of 7 guns, 4 Kalashnikovs, 292 bullets, 19 explosive devices, 11 ammunition cartridge holders, 96 detonators and a drone. Cars and boats used in terrorist crimes and smuggling operations were also seized.

The investigations carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department also revealed that one of the organization leaders, currently in Iran, continued his criminal and terrorist activities and plots against Bahrain.

He assisted many terrorist fugitives in Iran and Iraq with forming, in previous years, groups and cells in Bahrain that were eventually busted.

He was also involved in alliances with terrorist elements and fugitives belonging to various terrorist groups in Iran and Iraq to set up a terrorist group in Bahrain. The terrorist had been sentenced in several cases.

Hamadi said that the Public Prosecution has completed the questioning of 25 defendants who were involved in the operations, contributed to them or sheltered fugitives.

Other fugitives who were mentioned in the investigations or in the confessions of the defendants are still at large.

Public Prosecution levelled 16 charges against the defendants, including joining a terrorist group, training in the use of explosives and firearms to commit terrorist crimes, killing two police officers, attempting to kill police officers, and importing, smuggling and possessing explosives and weapons that may not be licensed in any way with the intention of using them in activities to disrupt public peace and order.

They were also charged with causing damages, robbery, resisting law-enforcement authorities, escaping from prison following legal arrest, and helping terrorists escape and sheltering them.

Only four of the defendants denied the charges while the others admitted them, Hamadi said.

The investigations by the Public Prosecution included a re-enactment of the crimes at the scenes and testimonies from several witnesses.

Public Prosecution remanded the defendants in custody pending further investigations and referred them to the forensic doctors for the necessary medical examination. It also referred the seized items to technical experts for reports.

Public Prosecution is also in the process of gathering testimonies from other witnesses and questioning suspects mentioned in the confessions of the defendants. The boats and cars used in the incidents were confiscated.

The investigations by the Public Prosecution are going on throughout the day in order to finish all details and prepare the case documents, Hamadi said.

Iran has not yet responded to the chief prosecutor’s claims, according to Associated Press news agency.