As rumor had it, the one synagogue on the Arabian Peninsula was in Bahrain. It seemed like an easy find — a sore thumb somewhere in two mile-wide downtown Manama. Earlier in the day the address I had plucked from an online forum, “Sasa’ah street,” seemed to get vague grunts of recognition from taxi drivers: near the souq, maybe. I decided not to make the trip to the desert to see the “Tree of Life”, a large mesquite that seems to spring miraculously from arid ground; instead, buzzing and sleepy from a long, bacony brunch, I went in search of the country’s Jewish roots.
Two nights and a day on the Arabian Gulf’s tropical isle. For a short slideshow, click here. Bahraincheck
Last weekend I went as far into Iran as an American passport would allow me. The week before, I left burning tires in Bahrain to traipse around northern Iraq looking for kebab and Neandertal bones. But from all this searching, I have found nothing quite as miraculous as what I witnessed last night.
It has been worse and it has been better in Bahrain. Jozif described the sting of tear gas like “that feeling just after you turn off the TV.” And running from the police: “You know Call of Duty? It was like Call of Duty.” He sometimes went to the protests with his friends, Shi’as, Sunnis, whoever — different backgrounds, different ideologies. He said one Sunni friend was there looking for girls, although, he grinned, “I am also there for this reason.”
“I can’t talk Arabic when I’m drunk,” said Yasser, a Bahraini born and bred. Alcohol and the official language of a religion that forbids it, I thought — something about this dissonance was too much. Plus, he told me with a light flick of his cigarette, we think everything western is better.
The Iron Bubble has descended.