THE Gulf’s only synagogue, in Manama, is now “fully operational” after a Torah scroll made in honour of His Majesty King Hamad was placed at the Jewish worship place yesterday.
The scroll was presented to King Hamad last year by senior adviser to former US president Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, to replace the one that was stolen when the synagogue was ransacked in 1947.
A Torah scroll is a ritual object made for worship in a synagogue, and must contain the entire text of the five books of the prophet Moses.
The stolen scroll was eventually returned in the 1980s by a man in the UK to a synagogue in London but it was damaged with several pages missing, rendering it invalid.
Bahrain’s Jewish community leader Ebrahim Nonoo told the GDN yesterday that this was the first time since 1947 that a Torah scroll was now inside the synagogue.
“We finally received it and now our synagogue is fully operational, as we can conduct our weekly prayers.”
Mr Nonoo said they only need a rabbi (spiritual leader or religious teacher) for the Torah reading.
“It is a big development for us to be able to use a Torah scroll in the synagogue once again, after 1947.”
However, he pointed out that the community now faced a new challenge after receiving a communication last week from the Labour and Social Development Ministry regarding the possible resumption of services in non-Muslim worship places.
According to the regulations mentioned in the letter, only those who are Covid-19 vaccinated or recovered can attend the services, which cannot extend beyond 45 minutes.
The main point of concern for the Jewish community is a regulation stating that those aged over 60 and those with chronic diseases will not be allowed in the worship place.
Bahrain was once home to around 2,000 Jewish families, many having migrated from Iraq and other countries, but now there are about only 35 members remaining.
“We are a tiny community and I am aged over 60, as are other family members,” said Mr Nonoo.
“We understand the Covid-19 health and safety protocols because of which we have set up a sanitiser station at the synagogue and check the temperature of visitors.
“It is our humble request to reconsider the point of age group considering the small and ageing Jewish community in Bahrain.”
“The church or the worship place that does not comply with health and regulatory requirements and poses a threat to public health will be closed,” warns the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the GDN.
Located in Sasa’ah Avenue, in the old Manama suq, the synagogue set up in 1935 also features books and a gift shop following its revamp into a workship and cultural centre.
The community also has a small Jewish cemetery in Manama.
In September last year, Bahrain and the UAE signed the Abraham Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the presence of Mr Trump.
Officials from the two Gulf countries have visited Tel Aviv and vice-versa with a series of economic agreements signed including for flights, tourism, security and investments.
The two sides recentlty reached an agreement regarding mutual recognition of vaccination and green passport.