Hundreds of Bahraini government officials and business leaders attended the Israeli Embassy’s Yom Haatzmaut event recently to celebrate the close relationship that has developed between the countries since the signing of the Abraham Accords. Israeli actor and singer Tsahi Halevi, who starred in the hit television show Fauda, and Chef Doron Sasson participated in the program. Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior’s band played the Israeli and Bahraini national anthems.
The event marks the first time that Israel has held a Yom Haatzmaut event in the Gulf. This is the first such event of its kind following the opening of the embassy by Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in September 2021. Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s first Ambassador to the Kingdom, arrived in November 2021.
The evening focused on the advancement of the relationship between the two countries and included a recorded message from Foreign Minister Lapid and speeches Ambassador Dr. Sheikh Abdallah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa (Undersecretary in Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry), Ambassador Na’eh as well as a musical performance from Halevi. Chef Sasson prepared a special menu for the evening offering a fusion of Bahraini and Israeli dishes. Speeches highlighted the business, cultural and people-to-people opportunities between Israel and Bahrain.
In his speech, Na’eh spoke about the vision shared by both governments regarding the opportunities for both nations and highlighted the economic activity between the two nations as well as investments and joint ventures which is projected to reach hundreds of millions within the next few years. He noted that he anticipates hundreds of millions in volume and emphasized the advantages of agreements in the fields of medical research, technology and trade.
“Our Yom Haatzmaut reception shows the authentic, warm and genuine relationship between Israel and Bahrain – its leadership and people,” said Ambassador Na’eh. “The new Middle East is built upon a shared desire to cooperate in all areas from security to sustainable energy, water and food security to tourism and other areas.”
Majalla previously met with Amb. Na’eh when he was the head of Israeli mission in Abu Dhabi in September 2021, just before leaving the UAE to Bahrain. Speaking about his experience in UAE, and what he learned from being the first Israeli diplomat appointed there following the Abraham Accords, he said, “I came to the UAE eager to learn. I learned a lot. I learned to be humble. I learned how much we still don't know about each other. I really fell in love with the region, its people, culture, history. I enjoyed the opportunity to listen, to watch. I enjoyed the kindness of people, the hospitality. The warmth. People can make a difference by enhancing people to people relations. But most of all I learned, or tried to learn patience.”
He added, “I enjoyed the opportunity to listen, to watch. I enjoyed the kindness of people, the hospitality. The warmth. People can make a difference. Enhancing people to people relations is the way forward.”
Regarding the achievements he achieved as the first Israeli ambassador to Bahrain, Na’eh said: “I came here trying to create movement, make things happen in all fields. I am happy to see business starting to happen; dialogue developing; joint research in the medical field that will benefit all people in the region.”
He added that he was happy to bring to the UAE some of Israel’s best builders of high tech eco systems.
“I see enlarging economic activity and volume of activity as my main goal here. I helped connect research institutions, encourage academic exchanges, initiate visits and bring here businessmen and women, investors, dreaming together about trade, and commerce, cooperation in many fields,” Na’eh said.
On his impressions and relations with Bahraini leaders, he said, “I was welcomed with warmth. I really enjoyed meeting the leadership of this country - visionaries who dare to dream. (They are) some of the most talented people I ever met. My wish is to work with them to build sustainable relations.”
The Jews in Bahrain are considered indigenous, as they have lived there since the nineteenth century.
They established lives and businesses and contributed to building society, even as some of the most prominent Israeli businessmen, researchers and professors are of Bahraini origin.
In this context, Na’eh said that he heard many stories about the lives of Bahrain's Jews in the past.
“I heard many stories of life here in the old days and experience it now. We held celebrations here for the Jewish holidays. Bahrain is unique in that regard,” he added.
On preparations for a reception hosted by the Israeli embassy on the occasion of the National Day, Na’eh said, “We have made a lot of preparations towards celebrating our National Day here in Bahrain.
“We invited hundreds of peoples, new friends, from all walks of life and society here. We brought an Israeli Chef to cook Israeli food which is really a fusion of food of countries from where Jews came from. We all like to eat, try new foods.
“We created a menu of Tel Aviv street’s food with some Bahraini ingredients. Food unites us and gets us gather together,” he said.
The ambassador added, “We brought an Israeli singer, live music, a combination of Israeli, Bahraini, and international music. Lights, sounds, tastes - of something new that is happening.”
Concerning the current climate in Bahrain regarding the acceptance of Abraham Accords by Sunnis and Shiites (meaning the people as a whole), Na’eh said, “We have created a new reality, a positive vision that offers hope. Our relations are at infant stage. We need to nurture them with passion, love, patience, sensitivity, and determination.
“Those who oppose the process need time, sometime we need to remind ourselves that we need not look back because we don’t walk there. We move forward.”
Regarding the things that the Israeli ambassador aspires to achieve in Bahrain, he said: “I would like to see more Bahrainis going to Israel. We will facilitate it. More tourism, cultural exchanges, trade, investment and joint ventures.
“I want to see relations that are there to stay because we all realize that it is better to deal with the birth pains of peace, difficulties of building new relations than with the alternative: hostilities, breakout of war.”
Concerning the law that contradicts the goals of the Abraham Accords and that Iraq has approved to punish anyone who seeks peace with sentences that may amount to death, Na’eh said, “They are fighting the inevitable. They work against the very interest of their people. They offer no better alternative and will see only more of the same. Shame!
Couple of months ago, Na’eh said that he escorted Bahrain Foreign minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, to Israel to a unique meeting of foreign ministers from Morocco, Egypt, Israel, the UAE and the USA.
“The excellent discussions witnessed a concerted effort to address together some of the pressing problems in the region - from water to food security, to sustainable energy, security of course.”
“That is a new Middle East. The Club is open. Come join or stay behind,” he said.
Regarding the media’s support in Bahrain for peace between Manama and Tel Aviv, Na’eh indicated that he and his diplomatic team work closely with the media to publish stories that help broaden people’s horizons.
“Through our increasing presence here and increasing activities on social media we hope to create understanding and knowledge,” he said.