Just Another Guy with Opinions

Jews in Iran

Posted by shadmia on December 18, 2006

Maurice Motamed.jpgMahmoud Ahmadinejad.jpgMoshe Katsav.jpg

It may be surprising to learn that Iran is home to more Jews than any other Middle Eastern country outside Israel. There are an estimated 25,000 Jews living there. It may also be surprising that Jews are a “Protected Religious Minority“, a status bestowed by Iran’s revolutionary leader Imam Khomeini. Jews have lived in this country for more than 3,000 years. There are synagogues “dotted” all over Iran where Jews are able to practise their religion:

“Because of our long history here we are tolerated,” says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami.

He says the father of Iran’s revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected.

As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament.

“Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us,” says Mr Hammami.

This does not mean that Jews are not persecuted in Iran but many Iranian Jews are willing to remain because they are just as proud of their Iranian culture as they are proud of their Jewish roots. Here is a clip that gives some insight to the lives of Iranian Jews: Jews in Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been very vocal against the state of Israel and has often called for its destruction. He does, however, seem to make a distinction between the state of Israel (Zionists) and other Jews. At a recent conference which questioned the Holocaust, he welcomed a Jewish ultra-orthodox sect called Neturei Karta.

The Jewish representative in the Iranian Parliament is Maurice Motamed. He has often criticised the President about his views:

“It’s very regrettable to see a horrible tragedy so far reaching as the Holocaust being denied … it was a very big insult to Jews all around the world,” says Mr Mohtamed, who has also strongly condemned the exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust organised by an Iranian newspaper owned by the Tehran municipality.

Even though there is currently much hostility between the Israelis and the Iranians, much of it prompted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they also have a long history of cooperation. There are more than 200,000 Iranian Jews living in Israel, including a deputy prime minister, military chief and a Farsi-speaking President of Israel, Iranian-born, Moshe Katsav.

As Benjamin Disraeli famously observed, “nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” Though hard to imagine today, the permanent interests between Persian Iran and Jewish Israel will, in time, make these enemies friends again.

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