Zayed R. Alzayani, Bahrain’s minister for industry, commerce and tourism, made an unofficial foray into the Old City of Yerushalayim during his 3-day visit this week and said he came away impressed by the spirituality.
“I’ve always spoken to people who’ve been to Jerusalem. And they always told me: It’s probably the most spiritual city in the world. I felt it last night. I felt it,” he told The Times of Israel on Thursday during a briefing for Israeli journalists.
“Last night I personally went out to walk around the city, on my own, with a couple of friends. I kind of snuck out because I wanted to go and see and feel for myself, as a normal citizen, not as a government official. And I spent an hour walking in the Old City and I went to the shopping mall across the road. I didn’t feel threatened, I didn’t feel any security issues,” he said. The visit was not on his official itinerary.
Alzayani walked through the Old City’s Armenian, Jewish and Muslim quarters. “When I got to the balcony where you can see the [Western] Wall and Haram al-Sharif [Har Habayis], you could feel — the air was different,” he said. “It was a nice feeling. Probably the closest I felt to that was being in Mecca and Medina, as a Muslim.”
After mentioning that he felt safe during the walk, he was asked if Israelis should have security concerns while in Bahrain.
“No…that is not an issue at all. We have quite a good security apparatus in Bahrain. Don’t forget that if there is a threat from Iran it is a threat to Bahrain more than it is a threat to Israelis tourists. So we have to keep our country safe and our borders well protected.”
“If Israelis feel more comfortable by having added security, that can be arranged, but I really don’t think that’s required,” he added.
Describing brief encounters with locals as he stopped to ask directions, he said that “to my surprise, most of them were Arabs. One person asked me where I was from. I said Bahrain, he was very welcoming. He said, ahalan wasahlan, good to see you here, and that was it.”