Bahraini Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa met with Jewish leaders in New York on Monday and Tuesday as part of the Gulf country’s efforts to facilitate people-to-people engagement with the Jewish community following Abraham’s accords of last year.
The series of meetings, which included meetings – a mix of virtual and in-person, due to both COVID-19 precautions and logistical challenges – with New York-area rabbis, the UJA leadership – Federation of New York, Yeshiva University students and faculty, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saw Al Khalifa share his government’s hope for what Bahraini and Emirati leaders have described as “warm peace.” , both with Israel and the global Jewish community.
“I think … engaging with the American Jewish community, with the global Jewish community, is part of the ‘warm peace’ strategy,” JI Al Khalifa, who holds the Israeli portfolio in Bahrain and has become the leader, told JI Al Khalifa. Bahrain the highest ranking to visit the Jewish state last August. in an interview at a downtown Manhattan hotel on Tuesday morning between meetings. “It’s not ‘the undersecretary is here by the way.'”
The meetings left an impression on the attendees, many of whom had not previously had a deep engagement with Bahrain but were optimistic about future interpersonal efforts.
“I think it showed interest in a very low level, in a popular way, which you usually don’t see. I think countries generally make peace and everyone move forward, ”Rabbi Daniel Sherman of the West Side Institutional Synagogue, an Orthodox synagogue on the Upper West Side, told JI. “I think there has been a real effort for a grassroots relationship for the Jews and the Bahraini community and obviously Israel in a much more authentic way.”
UJA Federation CEO Eric Goldstein said the concept of ‘warm peace’ “requires not only country-to-country activities, but a lot of people-to-people initiatives from an economic point of view, from an economic point of view. view of interreligious religious dialogue, from student to student perspective, that communities need to learn from each other. And I think he sees not only Israelis, but American Jews as well, as essential to this process. “
After his meetings in New York, Al Khalifa will travel to Washington, where he will spend the rest of the week meeting with government officials.
Al Khalifa told JI that the Bahraini government was “very grateful to the Trump administration for its support” in facilitating the Abrahamic Accords, and “also very grateful to the Biden administration, which will continue to support Bahrain and develop ties with Israel “. He added that “work is underway at the institutional level in the Biden administration to support Bahrain and understand all the improvements needed to move forward.”
Speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America on Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said signatories to the Abrahamic Accords were working to help Israel establish relations with other Arab countries in the region.
Al Khalifa hoped that the success of the Abrahamic accords would encourage other Arab countries to enter into similar deals.
“The whole world is looking today and asking… ‘What are the fruits that have been built by the countries and peoples of the region?’ Al Khalifa said. “I think that through the processes we have undertaken over the past 12 months with our counterparts in Israel, [it] is very encouraging and [is] lay the foundations for cooperation on many different fronts.
Now, he said, it is up to the private sector “to improve trade and investment and take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented”.
The Bahraini government’s efforts to reach out to the Jewish community come as the Gulf nation struggles to forge ties between Bahrainis and Israelis. A Bahraini delegation of social media influencers, organized by Sharaka, a cooperative effort to facilitate Gulf-Israel relations, is in the Jewish state this week.
The group visited Yad Vashem on Tuesday, a day after the museum submitted new Arabic-language Holocaust education guidelines to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The organization’s working definition of anti-Semitism has been adopted by dozens of countries – a majority of them in Europe – as well as by the United States
No Arab nation has officially adopted the definition, which gives examples of anti-Semitism that include accusing Jews of exaggerating the Holocaust and equating anti-Israel rhetoric with anti-Semitism. Al Khalifa told JI that the government is “studying this”.
As coronavirus restrictions relax, community leaders and Al Khalifa hoped that travel between the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Bahrain and the United States would facilitate more cross-cultural interactions. On Tuesday, Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is currently in Abu Dhabi, announced that visa restrictions between Israel and the United Arab Emirates would be lifted next Sunday.
“It’s like when Fleetwood Mac goes on tour, and everyone has to go to 22 concerts,” Sherman said jokingly. “I have the impression that it will be fine in all Arab countries.”
“The Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates seem so determined to create warm relations to make this a reality in all sectors so that we can transform the Middle East,” Goldstein added. “And given our interest in this part of the world, it’s incredibly exciting.”