Bahrain: Bahrain appoints Jewish woman as ambassador to the US

Jerusalem Post
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has appointed a Jewish woman as envoy to Washington - the first Jew in the Arab world to become an ambassador. Local human rights groups, however, raise concerns.
The king named lawmaker Houda Nonoo, a 43-year-old mother of two boys, as an ambassador on Wednesday, the official Bahrain News Agency reported Thursday.
The decree did not say where she would be posted. But Nonoo confirmed she will be US ambassador for the Gulf nation. She was widely tipped earlier this year by Bahraini media as next envoy to Washington.

"It is a great honor to have been appointed as the first female ambassador to the United States of America, and I am looking forward to meeting this new challenge," Nonoo told AP by telephone.

She said she was proud to serve her country, "first of all as a Bahraini," adding she was not chosen for the post because of her religion.

Bahrain - a pro-Western island nation with Sunni rulers and a Shi'ite majority - is a close American ally and hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

The Jewish community in Bahrain dates back to ancient times, and the country contains the only synagogue in the Persian Gulf.

Today, there are between 30 and 50 Jewish citizens among a population of some half a million, compared to nearly 600 Jews before the State of Israel was established. The community boasts a synagogue and a small cemetery, though both are usually closed.

"We keep Rosh Hashana and Pessah and the other holidays in our homes," Nonoo said, according to a report by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "When my son had his bar mitzva, I flew a rabbi over from London for it."

Nonoo has served as legislator in Bahrain's 40-member Shura Council for three years.

The Nonoo family, which owns several business ventures, has long been involved in politics in the country.

The new ambassador's cousin, Abraham David Nonoo, also formerly served in the country's parliamentary council and is considered the unofficial leader of the Jewish community. He politely declined comment when called by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

29 May 2008

Source: Jerusalem Post