There are Talmudic references made of a Jewish community dating back in the geographic areas of present-day Bahrain, as well as references in Arabic texts to a Jewish presence in Hajar (eastern coast of inland Arabia) during Mohammed's time.
Benjamin of Tudela recorded in the 12th century that nearly 500 Jews lived in Qays and that a population of 5,000 resided in al-Qatif. Benjamin also recounted that these Jews controlled the local pearl industry.
Bahraini Jewish author Nancy Khedouri has written a book, From Our Beginning to Present Day about the Bahraini Jewish community:
According to a Jewish Virtual Library entry by Jewish researcher, Ariel Scheib, Jews have lived in what became the modern kingdom of Bahrain since the times of the Talmud. He further stated that it is mentioned in Arabian sources that Jews lived in Hajar, the capital of Bahrain, in 630 AD and refused to convert to Islam, when Muhammad sent an army to occupy the territory.
The modern Jewish community in Bahrain dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, when families immigrated from the large Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad. By 1948, there were 1,500 Jews living in Bahrain. On December 5, 1947, riots broke out against the Jewish community in Manama in the wake of ongoing violence in Palestine. A mob looted Jewish homes and shops, destroyed the city's synagogue, physically assaulted Jews, and murdered an elderly Jewish woman. However, Houda Nonoo told The Independent newspaper: "I don't think it was Bahrainis who were responsible. It was people from abroad. Many Bahrainis looked after Jews in their houses." This view is supported by Sir Charles Belgrave, formerly a political adviser to the government of Bahrain – which at the time was subject to treaty relations with Britain – who recalled in a memoir: "The leading Arabs were very shocked ... most of them, when possible, had given shelter and protection to their Jewish neighbours... [the riots] had one surprising effect; it put an end to any active aggression by the Bahrain Arabs against the Bahrain Jews." Following the riots, as well as the establishment of Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, many Bahraini Jews emigrated to Israel, the United States, or United Kingdom. Some 500-600 remained behind, but after riots broke out in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, Bahraini Jewry emigrated en masse.
Various sources cite Bahrain's Jewish community as being from 36 to 50 people, and Bahrain is the only Arab Persian Gulf state with a synagogue. Jews are one of several communities that form the core of the liberal middle classes and several are even active in politics: a Jewish businessman, Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo, sat on the appointed upper house of parliament (Shura Council). In 2005, he was replaced by a Jewish woman, his niece, Houda Ezra Nonoo. Ms. Nonoo also heads the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society which has campaigned against the reintroduction of the death penalty in the tiny Kingdom. Neither is considered a controversial figure, even among Salafist politicians.
As of 2007, the Jewish population of Bahrain numbered 36. At this time, the tolerance extended to the island's Jewish community is the result of the policy of its leader, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa. The island's boycott of Israeli products was in effect until 2004, when a free-trade agreement with the United States put an end to the official boycott.
At present, there have been no acts of physical violence or harassment of Jews or vandalism of Jewish community institutions, such as schools, cemeteries, or the synagogue. Although the Government has not enacted any laws protecting the right of Jews to religious freedom, Jews practice their faith privately without governmental interference. Nevertheless, the Government has made no specific effort to promote antibias and tolerance education. Some anti-Semitic political commentary and editorial cartoons continue to appear, usually linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.