For the first time ever, the Embassy of the State of Israel in Manama celebrated Israel Independence Day, or Yom Haatzmaut. It is the first celebration of its kind in the Arab Gulf region, an outgrowth of the signing of the Abraham Accords.
The event on Thursday, which was hosted by the Israeli Embassy, was attended by hundreds of officials, members of the government, the Shura Council, representatives of civil society organizations, businessmen, economic associations, military personnel from the ministries of Defense and Interior and the Bahrain Defense Force, and a number of ambassadors to Bahrain from other countries.
Heads of major companies from Israel’s oil and gas, cyber, manufacturing, fintech, high tech, pharmaceutical, biotech, and logistics sectors also attended the celebration.
An official Bahraini band played the national anthems of Bahrain and Israel, while Israeli actor and singer Tsahi Halevi, who stars in the popular Israeli series Fauda, performed a program of Israeli and Arabic music, and chef Doron Sasson prepared a special menu for the evening offering a fusion of Bahraini and Israeli dishes.
“I’m very excited, very honored; really the people present here demonstrate the depth and breadth of our relationships, and the opportunities they have to make the lives of our people – Bahrainis and Israelis – better, and to make the Middle East a better place,” Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s first ambassador to the kingdom, told The Media Line.
Na’eh added: “Bahrain is leading, together with another Abraham Accord country – the UAE – in promoting peace, security, and stability in the region; and when you see the people here you know where they are coming from: the labor fund ‘Tamkeen’; the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB); the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense; the military; businessmen; investments, it’s wonderful.”
He says that companies in Bahrain and Israel are participating in many joint ventures.
“The relations with Bahrain are developing and going (forward) – I pray that God will help me. There is so much work to do, especially in the business sector. There are so many projects, as I mentioned in my speech all the companies that are working together now, and it’s just the beginning,” Na’eh said, citing promising projects in industry, and pharma.
“Importing from Bahrain is easy, as Bahrain is close to Israel; we can do it by air, sea, and – inshallah – one day by land,” he also said. “The potential is great and I have the opportunity and the chance to take a part in the making of this new reality in the Middle East.”
In his speech at the event, Na’eh spoke about the vision shared by both governments regarding the opportunities for both countries and highlighted the economic activity between Bahrain and Israel, as well as investments and joint ventures which are projected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars within the next few years.
“We have celebrated many achievements and milestones in the last year and a half,” Na’eh said at the event, saying that these events include “Ambassador [Khaled] Al Jalahma’s arrival to Israel, the launch of direct flights from Tel Aviv to Manama, and many official visits.”
He added, “Israeli companies are keen on building business relations in the kingdom. Many top executives of leading Israeli companies are in the kingdom to explore opportunities for mutual growth.”
“Our Yom Haatzmaut reception shows the authentic, warm and genuine relationship between Israel and Bahrain – its leadership and people,” said 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.”
In a televised address, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said, “A few years ago, this event was just a dream” but now it is taking place “thanks to the vision and leadership” of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is also the prime minister.
Lapid added, “The last year has seen new steps forward in our relations; my visit to Manama was a highlight, the warmth and friendships were exceptional, opening the embassy was emotional and, since then, we’ve only gone from strength to strength.”
Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, undersecretary for international affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said in his speech at the event, “I’m delighted to be here today with you this evening to celebrate the Israel Independence Day, side by side with the government and people of the State of Israel.”
“We realize that this is a landmark occasion as Israel hosts its first national celebration in the Gulf,” he said. He added that Israel and Bahrain’s mutual interests “are well served through the Abraham Accords.” He credited the “vision” of signing the agreement with Israel to Bahrain’s King Hamad.
“For a more peaceful and more prosperous region, our constructive diplomatic relations are based on a sound and wise foundation, which has been codefined in the recently signed agreement. There is an abundance of potential in the Bahraini-Israeli relationship in a wide variety of fields,” Sheikh Abdulla also said.
Sheikh Abdulla expressed appreciation for the role Na’eh is playing in further enhancing the ties between the two nations on many fronts, adding that he looks forward to the bright future of the two nations.
“During my last visit to Israel in August of last year, I had the pleasure to meet officials and business people, go to museums, sit down with youth, and see the real social fabric of Israel. I saw that Israel, like Bahrain, is a melting pot of cultures and, like in Bahrain, people are united in their national identity,” Sheikh Abdulla added.
“I’m confident that our Israeli partners and friends who visited Bahrain would have seen the same parallels and have an equally good impression, and as we are all working diligently to realize the immense potential that lies with this relationship, I’m satisfied with the work that we have done hand in hand with our Israeli colleagues,” he said.
“I only know that we are going from strength to strength,” he concluded.
The event also witnessed side dialogues between several Israeli and Bahraini officials, in addition to the businessmen present from the two countries.
An official from the Bahrain Businesswomen’s Association told The Media Line: “There are many opportunities that can be exploited in the two countries, which will achieve more economic prosperity. Both sides can take advantage of these opportunities.”