2022 Portfolios: Jewish Quarter and Real Estate Purchases in Manama within Public Concerns, Hanukkah Celebrations Bring Protests to the Capital

2023-12-08 - 3:02 p

Bahrain Mirror (2022 Portfolios): The most prominent issues that dominated the scene in 2022 were revealed in August when information surfaced about a government plan to establish a "Jewish Quarter" in the capital, Manama, as part of the accelerating normalization agreements. Information indicated a new tourist map aimed at transforming 40% of the old city's neighborhoods into Jewish routes, buildings, and symbols, starting from Bab Al Bahrain through Mutanabbi Street to the Jewish Synagogue.

The new tourist map for Manama, displayed at the entrance of Bab Al Bahrain, effectively represented the first decisions made by the new Head of Authority for Culture, Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. It included several cultural and religious landmarks such as the Jewish Synagogue, Hindu Temple "Krishna," Bahrain Synagogue, Al-Mehza Mosque, and Al-Fadhel Mosque, along with gold shops and restaurants. Notably, it made no reference to any Shia landmarks, including ancient ones like the Khawaja Mosque, dating back to 1599.

As part of this plan, the recently developed Merchant House Hotel near the popular Haji's Café in the capital, Manama, was inaugurated, opening the door to what is now known as the Jewish neighborhoods and streets. The hotel was designed to mimic the architectural style of Jewish communities, featuring Hebrew signs on its walls and numerous paintings depicting Jewish history, accompanied by a musical backdrop dedicated to Jewish religious chants and songs.

In a related context, efforts by Jewish individuals to acquire dilapidated lands and properties in Manama for exorbitant sums were uncovered. Bahrain Mirror verified at least one citizen's story of government interference in selling a deserted plot of land he owned, permitting its sale only when a Jewish individual offered a staggering amount.

Reportedly, these purchases are carried out through well-known Bahraini real estate companies, and ownership is then transferred to the actual buyer, not directly through Jewish individuals. This complexity complicates the tracking of these transactions.

Addressing this, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim expressed that the proposed Jewish Quarter in Bahrain is an act "replacing the national, Islamic, and Arab identity." He added that it distorts the nation's history, erases evidence of the indigenous citizens' authenticity, and opens the door to Israeli occupation with local political complicity. In another statement, he emphasized that it is Haram (Islamically prohibited) to sell homes or land plots within the mentioned framework.

Contradicting this, Ebrahim Nonoo, Chairman of the Trustees Council of the Ten Commandments Synagogue and leader of the Bahraini Jewish Community, denied knowledge of Israeli individuals buying properties in the Kingdom in an interview with a local newspaper. He mentioned information about "Israeli businessmen wanting to collaborate with Bahraini companies in technology, trade, and investments to create more job opportunities in Bahrain."

Citizens also circulated information about offers they received through phone calls from brokers to sell their homes in Isa Town and Sar. One citizen revealed being offered a sum of 500,000 dinars for his house through brokers, some of whom were of Arab nationalities. Upon inquiry, the brokers indicated that the purchase would be in favor of a company, but the ultimate buyers were Jewish.

On October 22, 2022, Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na'eh shared a video of a lively event organized by the Israeli embassy in Manama, with a boastful comment that hinted at the city's inclusion: "A song about one city in another. Yes, you heard it correctly, it's Tel Aviv... and yes, in Manama/Bahrain."

In a striking move, businessman Ebrahim Nonoo announced that there would be a celebration of Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights) and the arrival of the new Torah in Bahrain for 8 days from December 25, 2022, to January 1, 2023. This event was planned for the area near Bab Al Bahrain and the vicinity of the Manama Souq, extending to the Jewish Synagogue. This was considered an actual implementation of the proposed Jewish Quarter, especially with the announcement of a delegation from Israel participating in the mentioned celebration. Protests erupted in Manama against the planned celebration, with demonstrators chanting against "Israel," normalization, and hosting Israeli individuals and delegations.

These protests led to the cancellation of the celebratory event, but official reports stated that it took place as planned, with heightened security forces in the Bab Al Bahrain area during the mentioned period.


Arabic Version