Anti-government protesters demonstrate in front of the Bahrain Embassy in Washington, Feb. 17, 2011. (Larry Luxner)
(JTA) – Bahraini Jewish parliamentarian Nancy Khedouri told JTA that the protests in her country have been blown out of proportion by the media.
At least eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded in mass anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain, an oil-exporting island nation home to about 800,000 people, including some three dozen Jews.
Khedouri and others from Bahrain said the country’s Jews have refrained from joining the protests and support King Hamad ibn Isa Khalifa, a Sunni ruler who has been the subject of protests by the Bahraini Shiites who comprise some 70 percent of the population.
“We are all numbed, saddened and shocked by what has happened,” Khedouri said in a telephone interview from the capital, Manama. “Yes, it’s very upsetting, but we all have faith that this is just a temporary cloud that will float away.”
Rouben D. Rouben, a Bahraini Jew, said life already is back to normal.
“I’m sitting in my shop enjoying myself,” said Rouben, the manager of an electronics and appliance store in downtown Manama. “Nobody in our community was affected. Nobody has left.”
Bahrain is the only country in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, that has ever had a real Jewish community.
Khedouri, a prominent Jew of Iraqi origin, recently was named to Bahrain’s 40-member upper parliament known as the Shura Council. She is one of two Jewish Bahrainis in the country’s government.
The other is Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s envoy to the United States and the first Jewish ambassador ever to represent any Arab country. Nonoo did not respond to requests for comment on the situation in Bahrain.