Just over a year after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, a local organization representing Gulf Jews has announced the launch of the region’s first Jewish dating site.
“As our communities throughout the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] have experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years, we have seen more and more singles move here with an interest in establishing more permanent roots in the region,” Association of Gulf Jewish Communities President Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo told the Al Arabiya news site.
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“By helping these singles find their spouses in the GCC, they are more likely to get married here and establish their families here, which in turn grows Jewish communal life and the need for more Jewish institutions like schools, kosher food, etc.,” he added.
Nonoo's association – an umbrella group for the tiny Jewish communities in the six Arab monarchies in the Gulf Cooperation Council – works toward achieving greater acceptance of Jewish life in the region. Since the signing of the accords in September 2020, the Jews in these Arab states who once lived in the shadow of the Arab-Israeli conflict have begun to adopting a more public profile and are attempting to bolster their numbers.
Users of the new dating site, called Jewish Singles in the Gulf, are asked to fill out a personal survey about themselves and about what they are looking for in a mate so that a team of “dedicated matchmakers” can “help set you up with your bashert,” the Yiddish word for intended or soulmate.
Another official from the Jewish community's association who spoke with the Dubai-based news site said that “dozens of singles in the region” had expressed interest in the platform during the lead-up to its launch Sunday, which came less than a month after a Jewish couple were married in Bahrain for the first time in over half a century.
The groom was the son of Nonoo’s cousin Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former ambassador to the United States and the first Jewish Bahraini to hold the position of ambassador anywhere in the world.
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“While I know that every mother thinks their child’s wedding is monumental, this one truly was! It’s very hard to find adequate words to describe how much it means for it to be my son,” the former envoy wrote in a tweet announcing the marriage, alongside a picture of her son and his bride under a wedding canopy, gazing out at the Gulf.
The community also recently celebrated a bar mitzvah in the synagogue in Manama, the only one in Bahrain, which was reopened last year for the first time since the 1940s.
“We are now having services every Saturday,” Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo told Haaretz at the time, noting that while the community of less than 40 has a Torah scroll, it is still looking for a rabbi.
While the community has generally been tolerated, Nonoo said, its members have usually sent their children abroad for schooling as a kind of insurance policy. He added that young people would commonly marry outside the country, especially in Britain and the United States.
“Everybody was getting married abroad, so we're really very excited and very happy that we had our first wedding since 1967,” he said. “The excitement was really clear to be seen, with both the Jewish visitors that came from abroad and with the locals who are friends of the family.”