Sisters open Bahrain’s first Jewish gift shop in honour of their late mother
February 08, 2022
All proceeds go to medical research and hospital care
When Heidi Nonoo came to Bahrain 31 years ago, the capital was very different to the multicultural, bustling city it is today.
Then, a gift shop displaying Jewish wares would have been unthinkable. But now, Ms Nonoo runs Lily B of LP, the country's first Jewish gift shop.
"I never dreamt that there would be Hebrew writing on the wall [in Bahrain]," she says.
The shop is named after her mother, Lily, and sells locally-made items like challah bread covers used on shabbat and kippahs traditionally worn by Jewish men, with Hebrew, Arabic and English writing. Lily died in 2019.
"We opened this shop in her memory. It was my way to cope with the grief because I was very distraught," Ms Nonoo says.
Her husband, Ebrahim Nonoo, is the leader of the country's Jewish community. He helped to renovate the abandoned synagogue near Ms Nonoo's shop.
"This is the first Judaica shop in the Gulf, and in Bahrain, certainly. It's the first time we printed Hebrew writing in Bahrain, thanks to the Abraham Accords."
Signed in 2020, the Abraham Accords established ties between the UAE and Bahrain and Israel.
Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz paid a visit to Bahrain by an Israeli defence chief where he signed a security co-operation deal.
The reaction to the shop has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We have had such a great reaction to the store. We've had a lot of visitors and the local community were very supportive," Ms Nonoo's sister Yael says.
This is one of the reasons why they chose to keep the products they sell made locally.
"This country has been very accommodating and welcoming to the Jewish community. So it’s a nice celebration to be able to give back to the local community by supporting artisans and craftsmen," Yael said.
Next door, the House of Ten Commandments Synagogue was the centre of the Jewish quarter in Bahrain in 1947.
It was re-opened last year, after receiving a $159,000 make-over.
In the true spirit of co-existence, both sisters say they are happy to see people from all faiths supporting their shop, and coming to the synagogue for worship.
"Lots of people are coming to visit and local people from the community who are not actually Jewish like to come to the synagogue to pray," Yael says.
"Everything that we sell here is hopefully going to help other people," Heidi says.