Houda Nonoo

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Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Nonoo with Bush 2008-07-28.jpg
Ambassador Nonoo
Bahraini ambassador to the United States
In office
3 July 2008 – 15 November 2013
Succeeded byAbdullah bin Mohammad bin Rashed Al Khalifa
Majlis al-shura
In office
2005 – 3 July 2008
Succeeded byNancy Khedouri
Personal details
Born7 September 1964
Spouse(s)Salman Idafar
Children2 including Menasheh Idafar

Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo (Arabic: هدى عزرا نونو‎; born September 7, 1964) served as the Bahraini Ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2013. She was appointed to the position by decree of Foreign Affairs Minister Khaled Ben Ahmad Al-Khalifa. Nonoo is the first Jew, and third woman, to be appointed ambassador of Bahrain. She is also the first Jewish ambassador of any Middle Eastern Arab country,[1][2][3] and the first female Bahraini ambassador to the United States.[4]


Nonoo was born in Manama, to a family of Jewish business entrepreneurs with origins in present-day Iraq. Nonoo's grandfather Ibrahim left Baghdad in 1888 and started a financial business in Bahrain.[5][6][7]

Nonoo lived for an extended period of time in the United Kingdom, where she attended Carmel College, a Jewish boarding school,[8] and earned a MBA. She also met and married Salman Idafar,[9] a British Jew, with whom she had two sons; Menasheh and Ezra. After her father died in a car accident, she returned to Bahrain to take over one of Basma Company,[10] a company offering different office services, from IT[11] to janitoring, hence becoming a successful businesswoman after inheriting the family's business.[12]

Prior to her appointment to the Majlis al-shura in 2005,[13] she founded in 2004 and presided the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, a society for the advancement of women's rights[14] as well as of foreign workers in Bahrain. For a total of three years served as a member of parliament (40-member Shura Council), after being appointed by King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah. Her appointment made headlines because Houda is part of the small Jewish community of Bahrain. Bahrain's Jewish community reportedly consists in just thirty-seven people, most of whom are the descendants of immigrants from Iraq and Iran.[1][2] Nonoo is not the first person in her family to enter Bahraini politics, or member of the Jewish community. In 1934, her grandfather Abraham Nonoo served as a member of the Manama Municipality, the first ever elected municipal body in Bahrain.[15] In 2000, a cousin, Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo was appointed to parliament. The Nonoo family is originally from Iraq having moved to Bahrain over a century ago.[16]

Appointment as ambassador to the United States[edit]

On 3 July 2008, Nonoo was appointed Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States, a role that also included responsibility over Bahraini diplomatic representation to Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina (non-resident). Some local media criticized the appointment,[17] and Radio Canada reported that her nomination was controversial within Bahrain, with some suggesting that a Jew might not be the best choice to defend Bahrain's refusal to recognise Israel. King Al-Khalifa rejected these concerns.[1]

During her term as ambassador, she made quite a few changes at the embassy, like changing the iftar from all-male gatherings to mixed-gender events with lectures on Islam and also introduced and interfaith reunions with local imams, rabbis and Christian clergy as guests.[9]

Her role ended in November 2013, when she was replaced by Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Rashed Al Khalifa, until then the military attaché of Bahrain in Washington.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Bahreïn persiste et signe", Radio Canada, June 8, 2008
  2. ^ a b "Une juive ambassadrice d'un pays arabe", Radio Canada, May 31, 2008
  3. ^ "Bahrain names Jewish ambassador". BBC News. 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  4. ^ "Bahraini king taps Jewish woman lawmaker as envoy to U.S." Haaretz. 2008-06-08. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  5. ^ Menachem Wecker, "The Arab World’s Jewish Ambassador", George Washington Today, February 1, 2010.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Nora Boustany. "Barrier-Breaking Bahraini Masters Diplomatic Scene", The Washington Post, December 19, 2008.
  8. ^ Interview: Houda Nonoo. The Jewish Chronicle
  9. ^ a b Bahrain protests have complicated job for Houda Nonoo, first Jewish ambassador from an Arab nation. The Washington Post
  10. ^ "Meet Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, First Jewish Ambassador from Arab Country - Jewish Business News". 7 December 2014.
  11. ^ Message from the Director. Gulf Computer Services
  12. ^ "Meet Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Bahrain's Jewish U.S. Ambassador". 14 March 2011 – via Haaretz.
  13. ^ Houda Nonoo. Wise Muslim Women - Women of other Faiths
  14. ^ {{cite web|url=http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2013/4/8/arab-spring-israel-and-bahrains-38-jews-in-the-eyes-of-jewish-ambassador-to-us#.V4qhcq3ly4o=%7Ctitle=Arab Spring, Israel and Bahrain’s 38 Jews in the eyes of Jewish ambassador to U.S.]. [[Jewish News Service]|publisher=}}
  15. ^ Nancy Elly Khedourie, From Our Beginning to Present Day (Al Manar Press: 2007) p. 78
  16. ^ בחריין: יהודיה תכהן בפרלמנט (in Hebrew). Walla!. 6 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-07.
  17. ^ "Bahrain picks Jew as U.S. envoy, local media critical". Reuters. 2008-05-08. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  18. ^ Chief, Habib Toumi, Bureau (15 November 2013). "Bahrain appoints new ambassador in Washington".

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