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Houda Nonoo, 46, one of fewer than fifty Jewish citizens in Bahrain, was appointed ambassador to the United States, according to reports on this date in 2008. The first Jew appointed ambassador by an Arab state (and the third woman ambassador from Bahrain), she served until 2013. Prior to her appointment, she led Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society and served (by appointment) for three years in the 40-member upper house of the parliament. “I had a normal Jewish upbringing. I was born into Judaism. It’s no different from growing up like a Jew in America. It’s my religion,” she told Moment magazine in 2011, noting, however, that “I have never visited Israel.... I’m Jewish. I’m not Israeli. I never knew anything about the Holocaust until I was 14. I never identified with Israel.” Ambassador Nonoo was educated in a Jewish school and at universities in Great Britain, and is married to a British man, but returned to Bahrain following the death of her father to run a family business. “[S]he does not wear a headscarf,” according to Ha’aretz, “she is the mother of two sons (Menashe and Ezra), and also promotes Bahrain’s image as a country in which women ‘have a choice’ whether to cover themselves or to drive (and since 2002, to vote, although there is only one woman elected to the Parliament).”
“There is already a female ambassador from Oman, so she set a precedent. I had a welcome dinner from the ambassador of Syria and the ambassador of Iran. My grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Iraq so the Iraqi ambassador was very interested to learn of my background.” —Houda Nonoo