Bahrain national orchestra performs Hatikva at Wiesenthal Center event. Gulf nation's king says subjects free to visit Israel.
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa (Reuters)
King Hamad made the remarks during an event denouncing religious hatred and violence at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in LA.
Bahrain, a kingdom of some 1.5 million people in the Persian Gulf, currently does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
King Hamad also told Simon Wiesenthal Center director Rabbi Abraham Cooper that Bahraini citizens are free to visit Israel as they please.
Rabbi Cooper and his colleague Marvin Hier visited Manama, Bahrain’s capital, earlier this year. Rabbi Cooper saw a church with a large cross, a Hindu temple, and a large mosque in close proximity to each other. He also saw the only synagogue in the Persian Gulf region
According to Rabbi Cooper, no one in Manama paid him a second glance even though he wore his yarmulke, which clearly marked him as a Jew, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“People didn’t give us a second look,” he said. “That impressed me because that says they expect to see scenes like that.”
He said that he was encouraged by King Hamad's softening stance on Israel.
"If I had to predict, I would tell you that the Arab world’s relationship with the state of Israel is going to dramatically change ...[the Bahraini king is] ahead of the pack and smart. It is the way to go, and he’s smart. This is a dinner tonight that’s hosted by a Jewish organization that no one will say is not so pro-Israel.”Over 400 delegates from many religions and nations attended the event at the Wiesenthal center last week. Jewish delegates mixed with Muslim, Sikh, and Buddhist delegates, and many Muslim countries had delegates in attendance, including, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kuwait, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Arab delegates stood as the Bahrain national orchestra performed the Israeli national anthem, 'Hatikva.'
The monarch's comments come just weeks after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that relations between Israel and the Arab world were better than any other time in Israel's history. The increasing power of Iran and Qatar's sponsorship of terror has united Egypt and the Sunni Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in a joint effort to contain the two, bringing them closer to Israel.
“What’s happening now with the Arab bloc states has never before happened in our history – even when we signed agreements ...What we have now is greater than anything else during any other period in Israel’s history."