Smiling for Peace
Houda Ezra Nonoo
Her Excellency Houda Ezra Nonoo is the Ambassador from Bahrain to the USA.
I think I promote peace everywhere I go by smiling at people. It sounds simple, but it’s true.
Until I was 13 or 14 I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I gave that up to work in the family business. This current job is the height of my ambition. No other job could have so much variety. The best part of it is meeting people I would never have met otherwise, from around the world and around the US. I enjoy hearing what they think, and I enjoy dispelling their misconceptions.
The questions are always: “Why aren’t you covered? Can you drive? Can you go out alone?” What I tell them is that the Arab world is as diverse as the US. Bahrain, in particular, is an island, so we have always welcomed foreigners, seafaring people from everywhere. Bahraini people are friendly and love to get to know other people. We call it “The Island of 1,000 Smiles.” Americans came for the first time in 1893, as missionaries, and started a clinic that is a major hospital now. Our friendship is people to people, not just a military alliance. We have Hindus, Jews, and Bahais as well as Muslims, Christians, and guest workers of many faiths and nations. My own family background is Jewish, and I celebrate the High Holidays.
What breaks my peace is seeing every day’s news: Sudan, Gaza, floods and earthquakes. In today’s world we are all linked, so we know quickly when people are suffering near and far. What concerns me the most, though, is the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli relationship. We can’t allow another generation to go through what we have gone through. The new administration looks hopeful, even though hopes have been raised before, and then nothing. Still, I am hopeful. President Obama is my age. He’s there for change. His campaign was about change and hope. It’s so very important for people to have hope! Dialogue is important too. It’s what we teach our children: Talk it out, don’t hit. Don’t bully people. He has put out some gestures to Iran, so maybe they will pick it up.
Instead of spending money on bombs, I’d like to see it used to get people together, so we understand we are all human beings together. Bahrain is a small island where we all live together in peace. Peace X Peace does that too, by putting women from everywhere together. Patricia’s book is such an amazing concept: Palestinian and Israeli women side by side. If governments and NGOs arrange more and more events to bring people together, we will be moving toward peace. Our baby steps will add up, and they will become something great. I think we need many more organizations like Peace X Peace.