Following his call to open Bahrain to the return of its native Jewish population, a delegation of 50 Bahraini Jews who live across the United States stood for a blessing on King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa. Leading the traditional blessing, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Washington, D.C., director of American Friends of Lubavitch, thanked G‑d for “bestowing a part of His glory” on an earthly monarch.

Shemtov, who maintains relations with many foreign missions in the District and all branches of the U.S. government, attended the Tuesday meeting in New York at the personal invitation of the king. During the meeting, King Hamad said that all expatriate Bahrainis, whatever their religion, could return to their home country at will.

“It’s open, it’s your country,” said the monarch.

After the address, Shemtov spoke with the king, who has spearheaded electoral and legal reforms in his Gulf kingdom since taking the throne in 1999, and more recently suggested through his foreign minister that Israel participate in a regional conference of Middle Eastern nations, including Iran.

“I told him that the Jewish community appreciates the things he’s said recently about Israel and the Jewish people,” Shemtov said from his office on Wednesday.

After commending the king for the foreign ministry’s leadership and the king’s appointment of Houda Ezra Nonoo, a Jewish woman, as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States, the rabbi spoke about Abraham, the father of both peoples.

“I rise in honor of Your Majesty,” Shemtov told King Hamad. “And I humbly ask Your Majesty to rise in honor of the One G‑d, the King of all Kings, in whose Name we offer blessings.”

When the king rose, the rest of the room stood, and Shemtov made the traditional blessing upon seeing a ruling monarch.

“There are some encouraging changes taking place in the world,” said Shemtov. “Bahrain has a rich Jewish history, and I feel that Bahrain, and particularly His Majesty, can play a unique role in bringing about positive movement within their arena in regard to the Jewish people and the world at large.”