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Encyclopedia Judaica:

Bahrain: Virtual Jewish World | Rulers of Bahrain | Religious Freedom Report 2013

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BAHRAIN (Bahrein), territory extending along the Arabian shore of the Persian Gulf southward from *Basra including many small islands. Talmudic references to ports and islands on the Persian Gulf indicate that Jews were already settled in this region. The Jews in the old capital of Bahrein, Hajar, are recorded in Arabic sources as having refused to accept Islam when Muhammad sent a force to occupy the territory in 630. In the 12th century *Benjamin of Tudela refers to 500 Jews living in Qays and to a Jewish population of 5,000 in al-Qatīfa (undoubtedly an exaggeration) who were said to control the pearl fishery. In the 19th century, Jewish merchants from Iraq, Persia, and India went to Bahrein, and there was a small Jewish colony. It has dwindled as a consequence of the political situation. In 1968 only some 100 Jews remained in the new capital city of Manama.

At the turn of the 20th century around 30 Jews remained in Bahrein, with services held in private homes on holidays. The Jewish community maintained its cemetery. Most of the Jews were prosperous and had good relations with their Muslim neighbors. Up until the Oslo Agreements (1993) between Israel and the Palestinians, the rulers of Bahrein had no official relations with Israel, but subsequently semi-official relations – commercial, in particular – were established.


A.T. Wilson, The Persian Gulf (1954), 83–91; Fischel, in: Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (Eng., 1950), 203–8; Gustinsky, in: Edot, 1 (1946), 238–40.

[Walter Joseph Fischel]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.


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