The remarkable visit was part of a larger event gathering together spiritual leaders from around the world.
Israel’s former Chief Rabbi and present Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain on Monday upon the king’s invitation. The visit represents another demonstration of warming relations between Israel and the Gulf states.
The rabbi is considered an official representative of the State of Israel, but not of its government.
The religious forum gathered clerics from Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, the United States, Italy, India, and Thailand, according to Israel’s public broadcaster Kan.
The first of its kind visit included the chief rabbi conveying “greetings from Jerusalem” to the King, according to the report.
The Iranian AhlulBayt News Agency also reported on the event, claiming that “Tel Aviv and its Arab allies [are] speed[ing] up attempts to normalize ties following years of clandestine contacts.”
“Middle East nations want peace with Israel, the leadership should promote that without fear,” said Rabbi Amar, according to AhlulBayit.
He also expressed hope that such visits would not require special preparation in the future.
Though Bahrain does not have official diplomatic ties with Israel, there have been several gestures indicating that it is changing its attitude toward the Jewish state, not least of all due to the growing threat to the region posed by Iran.
In September, during the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa shook hands with Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz and posed for a photograph.
The sheikh has also defended Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, recognizing them as justified “self-defense,” as well as stating that Israel is “an integral part of the Middle East.”
In June, Bahrain hosted the US-led summit that focused on the economic dimensions of President Donald Trump’s as-yet unreleased Israel-Palestinian peace plan. The act infuriated Palestinians, but was backed by several Arab regimes who attended.