Bahrain Cabinet Approves Air Services MOU with Israel

The skyline of Manama, capital of Bahrain. (Wadiia)

Bahrain’s government approved on Monday a memorandum of understanding with Israel, covering air services, the state-run agency of the Gulf country said.

Meanwhile, Israeli, Emirati and Bahrainian ministers participated in a panel of the World Tourism Market (WTM) in London, the world’s second-largest annual tourism event, and the largest one in Europe.

Israeli Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen told the gathering, “We are very excited, at every level, and looking forward for when the skies open so we can host our guests from the Emirates and Bahrain.”

“As Israelis, we are preparing for Muslim visitors,” she said, describing how Israeli operators are training tour guides in Arabic, making hotels and operators aware of the Halal requirements and other needed steps.

“Historically, we haven’t had many Muslim tourists, and that is going to change,” she noted. To prepare, the Ministry released a detailed document of ‘dos and dont’s’, including touching upon basics such as expected manners and socially accepted behavior, or the requirements of Halal dining without alcohol.

“Everyone I see, I talk to, says ‘take me on the delegation to Israel’.” Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani of Bahrain said, saying how everyone in the tourism industry and beyond, was “excited about this new reality,” and that “the air connectivity would boost tourism both ways.” The Minister added he was aware of the nice hotels in Tel Aviv, “and I am looking at where I should stay.”

Minister Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi of the United Arab Emirates stressed the importance of tourism in better understanding the other’s culture, and mentioned that “we have given visa exemptions for Israelis, and I look forward to welcoming the Israeli visitors who travel here.”

Also on Monday, Israir announced the start of direct flights from Israel to Bahrain on January 31.

Tickets will cost $249 and there will initially be two flights a week, according to media reports.

The Knesset is expected to vote on the normalization agreement with Bahrain on Tuesday, ahead of formal ratification by the government.