Bahraini king would ease return of Jews
NEW YORK (JTA) - The king of Bahrain said he would facilitate the return of Jewish expatriates through restored citizenship and land offers.
King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa met in New York Tuesday with about 50 Bahraini Jews who had immigrated to the United States, following on a similar meeting in London this summer.
The king said that all expatriate Bahrainis, whatever their religion, were welcome to return.
“It’s open, it’s your country,” he said in New York. He had reversed a law that banned dual citizenship and was ready to restore the citizenship of Bahrainis who had lost it in the interim, and to offer it to their children as well.
“The younger ones can’t remember much, but we want them to know,” he said of Bahraini heritage.
Returning Bahrainis would be eligible for land allocations, he said.
King Hamad is in New York to attend an interfaith conference cosponsored by Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. He has instituted reforms in recent years, including extending the vote to women. He recently named a Jewish woman, Houda Nonoo, ambassador to Washington.
In an interview, King Hamad told JTA that he did not expect his reforms to replicate throughout the region. “What we do in Bahrain is for sure for Bahrain, it’s not to be exported,” he said.
Bahrain has recorded a Jewish presence since the Talmudic era; it’s current community is descended from Iraqi Jewish merchants who settled in the late 9th century. Several dozen remain.