Bahrain broke several barriers at once in late May by appointing a Jewish woman to be its new ambassador to the US. Houda Nonoo, a member of the Shura Council for three years before the appointment, has thus become Bahrain's and the entire Arab world's first Jewish ambassador. Nonoo is also the first female Bahraini ambassador to the US, and the third woman to become a Bahraini ambassador to any country.
Bahraini Jews are said to number 37 people among about 530,000 Bahraini citizens (the country's total population is about 1,047,000 people). Bahrain is the only Gulf Arab country with any Jewish citizens. Manama has one synagogue, which was abandoned after the establishment of Israel, but is now once again in use.
Nonoo's ancestors moved to Bahrain from Iraq over a hundred years ago. Her family has been active in public affairs in Bahrain for several generations.
According to Nonoo, Bahraini Jews are religiously observant: "We keep Rosh Hashana and Pessah and the other holidays in our homes". It seems, though, that there are no rabbis within the community; Nonoo once flew a rabbi over from Britain for her son's bar mitzvah.
Nonoo said she would serve in her position "first of all as a Bahraini" (BBC, ArabianBusiness.com, Jerusalem Post).
I think this is a great step towards the re-normalisation of the role of Jews in Arab and Muslim society.
What would be even more impressive is if Israel had an Arab Muslim Israeli citizen serve as ambassador to Egypt or Jordan (it has already had two Arab Muslim consuls in the US).