The History of Jews in the Persian Gulf

Although there were Jews living in the Arabian Peninsula in Mohammad’s time, for most of medieval and modern history the Arab lands surrounding the Persian Gulf—what is now Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman—had only small Jewish communities. Nimrod Raphaeli tells their stories:

Unlike the large Jewish communities in Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, and North Africa, the number of Jews in the Gulf countries never exceeded a few hundred in any one country. . . . Most of the Jews who settled in the Gulf countries, primarily in Kuwait and Bahrain, were of Iraqi origin, and many of them were seeking either to escape military conscription under the Ottoman empire or exploring economic opportunities. Of these Jews, only a few have remained, likely only in Bahrain where the Jewish population numbers around 70. A member of that community, Huda Nonoo, was her country’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2013—making her the first ambassador of the Jewish faith to represent an Arab country.

Jews held important positions in Ahsaa (currently in eastern Saudi Arabia), notably the post of treasurer of the Ottoman empire, which ruled the area through World War I. The post was held by three successive Jews. . . . During their tenure, many of the entries in the financial books were in “Hebrew” (most likely in Arabic written phonetically in Rashi script, which was commonly used by old-generation Iraqi Jews).

Jews had been living in Muscat since at least 1625. In 1673, according to one traveler, a synagogue was being built, implying permanence. The British officer James Wellsted also noted the existence of a Jewish community when he visited in the 1830s.

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Bahrain, Jewish history, Mizrahim, Oman, Persian Gulf

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror