My first trip to Israel – when dream became reality

By Houda Nonoo

As a Jew, I yearned to come. As a committed citizen of Bahrain, I waited for circumstances to allow such a visit. That time finally came.

Last week, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a delegation led by Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani’s to Israel – the first time Bahraini officials landed in Israel, flying on our national carrier, Gulf Air Flight number 972. While it was historic and memorable for all, it was particularly exciting for me as a Bahraini Jew.

This was my very first visit to Israel. As you may know, I was the first Jew to ever be appointed as an ambassador of Bahrain and the first woman to serve as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States. During my five years serving in Washington, I made many new friends and was often asked if I had been to Israel. I always said, “Not yet.” In my heart, I hoped and prayed for the opportunity, but I was determined to wait for the moment when circumstances would allow such a visit. As a loyal and committed citizen of Bahrain, I naturally respected the reality of the situation. I could only dream. And hope. And wait. And dream some more. Last week, that dream became a reality.

I wish to thank His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness, Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, for their leadership, vision, and courage to lead our nation proudly and boldly into the future through the signing of the Abraham Accords. I, like my fellow Bahraini citizens, express our support and enthusiasm for the opportunity our leaders have seized and the promise it represents to build a better life with security and opportunity for all of us and for future generations still to come.

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us as we continue to battle the pandemic sweeping across the world. However, 2020 was also a historic one in a positive way. It’s when Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates decided to pave the path forward for a bold vision of the new Middle East. During this time, the world has shifted on its axis in a very positive way. Amid a world dealing with so many difficult issues, a pandemic, economic challenges, social unrest, the Middle East gives all of us a ray of hope.

This reminds me of a beautiful story from King David’s Book of Psalms. In Psalm 126 we read, “When God will return us to Zion, we will be like dreamers.” Our Sages ask, “What is the reason we should be like dreamers? Isn’t reality good enough?” And the answer offers a touching insight. Too often when we anticipate something, when we picture what will be, our imagination builds it up so much that the reality is bound to disappoint. But King David tells us, when we return to Zion, to the homeland of our ancient tribes and where our history was born, the reality will glow with the same bright colors and beauty we imagined in our dreams.

Reflecting on my visit to Israel last week, I am so delighted to have had the chance to be there. It was the manifestation of a dream that I have dreamed since I was a young child and last week, it became a reality. As we embarked on the flight back to Manama, I thought about how one of the drivers for the Abraham Accords was to create a better future for our children – yours and mine. We are setting an example for them that focuses on building relationships, not walls. One which reminds them that we are stronger together. I pray that all of us now dedicate ourselves to the great work ahead to make the dreams come true for the youth of our region and that’s broader than just the youth in Israel and the Gulf. It includes Palestinian, Libyan, Syrian and Yemeni children. We must aspire to create the same high-level opportunities for all of these children.

Houda Nonoo served as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2013. She is the first Jew to be appointed an ambassador of Bahrain.

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