Jews in Iran: a travelogue

Middle East
on 97 Comments

Meeting local Jews was one of the goals of my visit to Iran. Besides curiosity and scholarly interest, practical concerns such as finding kosher food and celebrating the Sabbath and the holiday of Purim also brought me in contact with Iranian Jews. Besides, I was invited to give academic lectures on the way Jewish law (halakha) treats Islam and Muslims.

Compared with many other Jewish communities in today’s world, Iranian Jews seem safe. There are no guards at the entrances to synagogues and Jewish institutions, just as it used to be when I first came to know Jewish venues in Montreal, Baltimore and Paris. My memories, admittedly vague, of the synagogue in Leningrad during my youth do not include any image of guards, let alone armed soldiers who guard synagogues in major European cities. Most of the Jewish homes that I visited are quite modest. This, of course, did not prevent them from being very hospitable. 

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

My discovery of Jewish life in Iran began on the Sabbath. On Friday afternoon I walked to the synagogue along the Palestine Avenue. The street leads to the Palestine Square in the middle of which stands a monument to the Palestinians’ struggle. On the way I also saw a picture of a tank accompanied by a quote from Khomeini “Israel must be omitted from the world” (sic). This sentence was written on a large firewall facing the street. This sentence had been mistranslated and manipulated, leading to a panic, real or feigned, in Israel and among its fans elsewhere, who mistook it for a call “to wipe the country off the map” and thereby annihilate its population.

Nearby stands a spacious building of the main synagogue, which also houses a Jewish school, a kolel and a kosher restaurant. The door was wide open, and I saw congregants were getting ready for the afternoon services. There was a portrait of Hofetz Haim prominently displayed at the entrance, and a few phrases from his book against bad mouthing. But a local friend took me across the street to a smaller synagogue, the floor of which was entirely covered with carpets. This is the custom of almost all of the synagogues I saw in Iran. After taking off shoes we were seated in a place of honor, and the prayers began.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

In about a dozen of synagogues that I attended during my stay in Iran, the prayers, whether on the Sabbath or weekdays, were never rushed. The morning service of Purim in one of the synagogues in Yazd lasted three hours, including the reading of the Book of Esther. There was a feeling that everything read should have a sense. The showing of the Torah scroll to the congregation, often rather perfunctory in other countries, is taken seriously in Iran; the scroll is exhibited slowly so that everyone can actually find the verse they are about to hear. Every service includes a few minutes of Torah comments made by one of the congregants. Exceptionally, this time, a young man read out the results of the parliamentary elections that had taken place that week. A medical doctor, whom I would meet later, had been elected as the representative of the Jewish community.

The pronunciation of the prayers is quite close to the Sephardi one, but some tunes remind me of the Yemenite ritual. When I was subsequently often invited to conduct the services in several synagogues, the congregants found my style quite congenial, except for a few ayin and het, which Persians do not articulate. The decorations of the synagogues are functional and include the texts of the kaddish, modim, and a few Psalms, most often Esa einai el he-harim (Psalm 121), which is exceptionally popular here, perhaps, because of the proximity of the mountains.

The following day I went to another synagogue, an even smaller one, rather cozy and comfortable. People feel quite at home there, serve tea in the beginning of the services, and wine with a variety of cookies right before the reading of the Torah. Like in most non-Ashkenazi synagogues, congregants lead the services and read the Torah without the help of hired manpower. There was a lot of back-patting and kissing, and, the women are seated in the back, without a partition (with the exception of the main synagogue that does have a partition about 80 cm high). Women participate in all the three daily services, not only on the Sabbath, and most of them pray and seem familiar with the liturgy.

My friend took me home for both meals with his parents and sister. Unlike my friend and his sister who speak fluent English, their parents speak only Persian and we could exchange just a few words, usually borrowed from prayers or the Torah. The atmosphere in Iran is propitious for religious observance. Jewish children who attend public school (a Jewish school exists only in Tehran) are exempt from classes of Islam. They are sent instead to study with a rabbi who is obliged to grade their performance and send the results to the school. This way, all Jewish children receive traditional Jewish education so long as they go to school. I was moved in Shiraz when a boy of seven or eight years old interrupted me as I was about to lead the congregation to a grace at the conclusion of the last Sabbath meal. He said: mayim aharonim hova, reminding me of the custom of rinsing one’s fingers and lips before saying the grace after meals.

In Tehran, there are four kosher restaurants, a Jewish school, a yeshiva and a kolel as well as fifteen synagogues. One of the rabbis is a graduate of Baltimore’s Ner Yisroel yeshiva, where he spent eight years. The community is also in touch with Iranian Jews in Los Angeles and New York, where they get most of the prayer books and bilingual editions of the Pentateuch. Some have lived in the States and in Israel and have come back, sometimes to get married to a fellow Iranian.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

People were always helpful and generous with me. After one morning service in the main synagogue in Isfahan, a fellow congregant when I asked where to get a cab, took me to my hotel on a motorcycle. On another occasion, when I went to the synagogue complex to get kosher food and found the restaurant locked (it was Iranian New Year, Nouruz,) a synagogue attendant offered me a meal instantly prepared by his wife.

In Isfahan I often heard that the city had been founded by Jews exiled from the Holy Land in the First Exile. The city used to be called Dar al-Yahud. No wonder that I went to explore the old Jewish quarter Jubaré. As I wandered, I saw a small Star of David hand-painted on a gate. I pushed it and found myself in front of two elderly women. I tried to explain to them that I was Jewish but they remained in doubt. I tried to speak with them in Hebrew, again no avail. Finally, I uttered Torah tsiva lanu Moshe, and they joyfully responded morasha kehilat Yaakov. This is traditionally the first verse of the Torah taught to a child: “Moshe commanded us the Torah, the inheritance of the community of Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 33:4) The contact was made, and they promptly put me on Skype with a relative who spoke Hebrew. Apparently, she was in Israel but insisted she was in America.

Soon a young man with a kipa showed up in the street. I uttered tefilat minha, “afternoon prayer”, and he led me to a synagogue clearly marked in Hebrew and Persian above the front door. The synagogue was small and cozy, at least a century old. It was decorated with quotes from the Psalms, parts of prayer. Men sat in one corner and women in the other. I was invited to lead the services, and was afterward treated to fruit and cookies in memory of a deceased congregant, whose anniversary happened on that day.

When we left the synagogue, a familiar scene took place, even though I did not understand what was being said. It was Thursday night, and several people argued who would invite me for the Sabbath meals. I gave up all attempts to influence the events, and it was only on Friday night that I was actually led to the home of the parents of the young man with the kipa, who inhabit a spacious home not far from Palestine Square where the main synagogue is located.

Besides the young man and his parents, there were two of his sisters as well as a man who spoke English since he had spent a few years in Queens. We all sat on the carpet, making a Kiddush, partaking of fruit and vegetables prior to breaking bread in order to augment the number of blessings. We ate mostly with hands. After a while I was asked to say a few words of Torah, and, inspired by a weekly broadcast from Akadem, I spoke about the two names of the tabernacle, mishkan and mikdash, which teach us about the pitfalls of excessive closeness and possessiveness. The man from Queens interpreted, and the “audience” applauded. They applauded again when I told them that before a public lecture in Tehran, in response the Islamic invocation bismillah, “in the name of God”, I said in Hebrew be-ezrat ha-shem ve-yeshuato, “with the aid of God and his salvation”. The atmosphere was joyful throughout the evening, and I left close to midnight to walk to my hotel.  On the way, I crossed the park Hasht behesht, full of couples and groups of teenagers visibly having a good time.

The next morning I walked to Jubaré in search of the synagogue where my host for the second meal was to meet me. I got lost and walked into another synagogue, where nine men were anxiously awaiting the tenth one. Under the circumstances I had to stay. The floor was covered with blankets, rather than carpets, and the synagogue looked poorer. An old man asked me to lead the services, and once again, here I was reciting prayers before members of the oldest community in the world. It was moving to pray in the minuscule synagogue, surrounded by verses and old ornaments.

After the services, the old man who was commanded respect in the synagogue took his bicycle and headed home. Then I saw another Jew on a bicycle, which I had never seen among observant Jews. I would later find that Ben Ish Hai (1832-1909), a major authority in Jewish law from Baghdad, authorized the use of the bicycle under certain conditions.

My host easily found me since everyone knows each other in Jubaré. I was hosted for lunch by a family: the parents and a son in his 30s. Trained as an engineer, he sells clothes at a relative’s store, earning significantly more than he would in his profession. Later I met a mathematician who was selling carpets in the city’s famous bazaar. These are signs of demodernization, partly caused by Western sanctions meant to stop the non-existing nuclear weapons program in Iran.

The burly head of the family, with a few teeth missing in his mouth, spoke some French, since he had once studied at the Alliance school in his neighborhood. He was hospitable, albeit not always punctilious of the Sabbath observance, and his wife had to discipline him from time to time. A one-gallon whiskey bottle full of homemade wine dominated the table full of meats, stews and vegetables. The host told me that the bottle was a vestige of pre-revolutionary times. The lunch was copious, and included, to my surprise, Salade Olivier, which, thanks to Russian influence, became quite popular in Iran. By then I knew that hosts often offer their guests spacious shalvar, cotton pants that one uses to sit at the meal and, if needed, to take a nap afterwards. This turned out to be the case, and after the nap I changed back to my clothes and went out to explore the city. Returning to the neighborhood, I was greeted Shabbat shalom by a Jew who had keys to a few more synagogues, which he kindly showed to me. They are open only on Shabbat.

Friends in Isfahan introduced me to Mr. Sasson, artist, architect and owner of the gallery where we met him.  He is also the only Jew to work as an official building assessor in the city. As one enters the gallery, one sees an ornate picture of Jerusalem with the biblical verse in Hebrew “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning” (Psalm 137:5). He remains committed to Judaic practice and mentioned that he had seen me in the synagogue.  His son teaches Iranian music. An amiable refined man, Sasson extended me a warm welcome and patiently answered all of my questions about the Jewish community, gave me advice about travel in the country as well as a few contacts. He has taken part in over 40 exhibits, traveled around the world, while his gallery is situated on the ground floor of the house that used to belong to his parents, a few hundred meters from the main synagogue. Like several intellectuals I have met, he resigned from his position of professor of architecture during the years of Ahmadinejad, when universities reportedly experienced a sharp decline. At the same time, he believes Khomeini did a lot of good to the Jews, repeatedly referring to them as equal and “pure” Iranians.

Several non-Jewish Iranians, including business people, mentioned to me that Jews have an excellent reputation for honesty and reliability. Their word is as good as a written contract. This image appears at variance with the European image of the Jew, often considered “cheap”, “dishonest” and “rapacious”. One Jewish businessman, a carpet dealer, came to see me in the hotel and spoke with me in Hebrew without lowering his voice or feeling otherwise uncomfortable. He effusively greeted me shalom as he was leaving and was not in the least embarrassed to do so. In fact, Iranian salam often sounds very much like Israeli shalom.

I met Sion Mahgerefte,  the head of the Jewish community of Isfahan, in the lobby of Hotel Kowsar, one of the most prestigious in the city. The New Year decorations were splendid, and we found a quiet corner nearby. A friend interpreted as he spoke only Persian. He told me that most Jews work in the clothing industry, usually in retail. There are a few professionals and intellectuals but most earn a living in business, often inherited from father to son. Sion has a company of safety equipment (helmets etc) but his children study to be professionals. 

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

Shiraz welcomed me early in the morning and I settled in hotel Niayesh (meaning “prayer”), which turned out to be located not only near the city’s main shrine but also across the street from a small building marked Bet ha-knesset ha-hadasha (sic), “The new synagogue”. Soon I met a local Jew, a well-spoken graduate student at the University of Shiraz, according to him, one of the best schools in the country. When I asked him if there was a synagogue service to say gomel, a blessing usually uttered in public after travel, he remarked that Shirazis are proverbially lazy, and that there would be a late – fifth – minyan (prayer quorum) in the main synagogue. Indeed, we were on time for the 9:30 service, with about 30 young people, mostly in jeans, making the congregation. I later sent a photo of the service to a few friends who did not know where I was, and none guessed it was Iran, saying that the picture could be taken anywhere in the world.

The building also houses a kolel. After the services, I saw a group of boys studying the initial sentence of Mishna Berakhot under the tutelage of a young teacher. Someone explained to me that these were Jewish pupils from public schools who are obliged to study Judaism in synagogues. The rabbi teacher regularly examines them and sends the results back to school. Thus, concluded my Jewish interlocutor, the Islamic republic creates a religious framework that makes it easier to be a Jew. Several local Jews told me about their disappointment with the non-observance of so many Jews in Israel. One said that if he were to move there he would choose Bnei-Brak, the Haredi bastion next to Tel Aviv. Iranian Jews do not cover their heads, many are quite worldly and modern, while at the same time punctiliously observant. This contrasts with the use of the code word “modern” to denote less and non-observant Jews among the Ashkenazim. Here the modernity does not clash with Judaic observance.

On the way back, my friend showed me rows of clothing stores, many of which Jewish-owned. When I took that street on the Sabbath, quite a few stores remained closed in spite of the brisk business the rest of them were doing on the eve of the New Year.

I also found a Jewish campus consisting of an old age home, a matzah bakery, a wedding and festivities hall, a few offices and two take-out snack bars, a dairy and a meat one. The entrance to the courtyard was wide open, and over the entrance one could see a slogan with a photo of Khomeini and his words about the inclusive character of Iranian society. As usual, there was no guard, and anyone could drive a truck through. I later went there to savor delicious kebab served with rice and grilled vegetables.

At breakfast in my hotel on Friday I met a Lithuanian, who had become so impressed with Persian mysticism, that she moved to Shiraz and started a business bringing groups of her compatriots to visit Iran. She showed me around and by the end of the day, as we reached the hotel, I told her, in Russian, that I would check out, pay (I was leaving on Saturday evening) and then go the synagogue. Suddenly a middle-aged lady to my left questioned me in French: “Vous avez dit synagogue? Is there a synagogue in the city?” and asked me to take her and her son there. On the way, she began to deplore the fate of Iranian Jews – whom she had never met by then – who must live under an “anti-Semitic government.” On the way I tried to explain to her that opposition to Zionism need not be anti-Semitic, but did not make much headway. She considers herself a proud secular Jew and an unconditional supporter of Israel. Her son is doing a master in contemporary history in Berlin, is multilingual and otherwise worldly.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

In the synagogue, the young man was lost since he could barely follow the prayers. After the prayers, they could not understand why total strangers would invite them for supper to their home. I did what I could to provide them some information about Jewish customs but I left before that story ended. The contrast between local Jews and these fiers juifs laics, proud secular Jewscould not be starker.

My last “Jewish” stop was Yazd, a town known for its sweets and beautiful mosques (as well as the birthplace of the disgraced Israeli president Moshe Katsav). Since I was in the south, I decided to forego the opportunity of reading the Book of Esther at her supposed tomb in Hamadan and to spend Purim with Jews in the small community of Yazd. My friends were driving there anyway, and I caught a ride with them. As the sun began to set, the traffic became impossible, and I concluded it would be faster to walk to the synagogue. The son of an Iranian friend was asked to accompany me, and we spent nearly half an hour struggling through holiday crowds swarming in the commercial streets. He must have asked for directions over a dozen of times, and most merchants knew there was a synagogue nearby and told us how to reach it. In fact, there turned out to be two synagogues, one disaffected (but with a Hebrew inscription over the door) and the other that I was by then desperately seeking. I reached it just as the congregation was about to begin the reading. I found a place and a book and followed with the rest of about fifty people gathered. The reading was solemn and measured, and nobody was rushing out to eat after a day of fasting that precedes Purim.

At the end of the services, the head of the community approached me and invited to break the fast in his home. On the way, we could barely understand each other but at his place, full of relatives and their spouses and children, a few people spoke some English and French. The house was was warm and hospitable. As the local custom wants, I was offered a shalvar. Two sons of the head of the community were proud to work as accountants for one of the wealthiest men in town. The wife of one of them works as a tour operator. The atmosphere was joyful and relaxed, people were coming and going, sitting down to eat and drink, and then leaving again.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

I inquired if a non-Jewish Iranian friend, who studies Persian influences on the Talmud, could attend the morning services; he gracefully agreed, suggesting, though, that she should not say she was not Jewish. As it turned out, she responded she was Kurdish, and this was just fine for a few curious ladies among whom she sat. 

The following morning the entire community of about 50 people was again gathered at about 7 a.m. to hear the megila, the Book of Esther. As I mentioned earlier, the service lasted about three hours, and I was given the honor of carrying the Torah scroll from the arc.

After the services, a community meal was put together with a variety of Iranian dishes (again including Salade Olivier) brought in by families. Homemade wine was also flowing freely since Purim is the only holiday on which Jewish tradition encourages abundant libations and even drunkenness. Of course, nobody got drunk at 10 am in the middle of an Iranian city.

Back in Tehran, I was invited to give a lecture about Jewish opposition to Zionism since several members of the community knew my book on this subject that had been translated and published in Farsi. It took place Tuesday evening, and the audience in the little synagogue where I had prayed on a previous Shabbat, consisted of about fifty members of the community, mostly professionals. This time nobody removed the shoes: apparently this is done only during prayers. Before the talk, I was introduced to Dr. Siamach, the Jewish member of Parliament who had just bought my book in Persian and was passing it around. Collective pictures were taken from a good dozen of cameras, and the atmosphere was warm and friendly by the time I began to speak.

(Yakov Rabkin)

There was a lively interest to the history of Zionism, to rabbinical objections to it, particularly since most referred to Ashkenazi rabbis and to a world of ideological division and conflict that Iranian Jews have never experienced. (They knew, however, serious personality clashes between rabbinical authorities. One such conflict about kosher food a century ago resulted in physical violence. A shelter was built in the old Jewish neighborhood of Tehran to provide haven for Jews threatened by other Jews. Finally, it was an ayatollah, who restored peace among Jews.) There were four or five people, including the MP, who asked most questions, and it was truly moving to discuss this topic in Tehran with Iranian Jews, who need not to be convinced that Zionism is not equal to Judaism. If there is a country where Jews really appreciate my book it is Iran. I felt that it is for this Jewish community, the oldest in the world, where it is vitally important to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism, that I had really written my book. This made me feel privileged to have been able to meet them.

The following day, Marjan and her father, former head of the Jewish community and film producer, showed me several old synagogues, the Jewish hospital and other Jewish landmarks. One was the oldest in the city in continuous use. He showed me a few, including one decorated with Psalms, another with ancient rimonim (silver ornaments) and other synagogue utensils, protected by police alarm. One of the synagogues is called “Polish” in memory of the Jewish refugees, children and adults, who landed in Tehran during the Second World War. Another synagogue, Bet ha-knesset he-hadash, or the new synagogue, was built in 1879 as an imaginary Jerusalem temple.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

Marjan mentioned that her father Yeshayai used to be close to Communists and other political dissidents prior to the Islamic revolution. It was during that time that he befriended a Muslim revolutionary who ended up emigrating. He returned years later, and his name was Ayatollah Khomeini. The two would keep up their relationship, and Yeshayai continued to head the community. He had to resign under Ahmadinejad because he had accused, in a journal article, the new president of fascist tendencies. The article was published, the author was not arrested but had to leave the post of the head of the community. However, at 84, he continues to be involved, and had the keys to all the synagogues he was showing me.

Marjan also told me about her work, which includes a report on the health impact of the Western sanctions on Iran. She has since sent it to me, and it makes for very sad reading. Marjan also “warned” me that she is not religious, but I found her quite competent in matters Jewish. In the courtyard of one of the synagogues there was a lonely bush growing, apparently planted to make havdala around it. It has a pleasant smell and she suggested I made a blessing atsei vesamim, a blessing over fragrant substances usually pronounced at the end of the Sabbath but meritorious whenever one feels a sweet scent.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

We also saw the Jewish hospital. It is clearly marked as such with a Torah verse in the original: “And you shall love your neighbor like yourself”. Unlike Montreal, where the Jewish hospital was a response to the anti-Semitism of the medical milieu that would not hire Jewish doctors in the 1920 and 30s, the Jewish hospital of Tehran is a Jewish charity work. It began as an infirmary at a synagogue, later a few houses were donated, and finally an entire hospital was built. Located in a former Jewish neighborhood (most Jews have moved to better areas), the hospital treats all patients equally. The neighborhood, and its Jews, had played an important role during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911.

(Photo: Yakov Rabkin)

The last stop in the guided tour was a pleasant caravanserai that used to house the first Jewish bank and currency exchange counter. It is now a (non-kosher) restaurant but the building carries a commemorative plaque. 

After the walk through the neighborhood we ended up in a kosher restaurant for lunch. Nothing is written about it being kosher but people know, and, according to Marjan, most customers were Jewish, albeit only a handful of men had their heads covered. While practically all observe kosher regulations, they may not necessarily adhere to the custom of saying the grace after the meal.

I was told that practically all Iranian Jews are observant. Judaic practice is the foundation of their Jewish identity; this is what one does if one is Jewish. There are no substitutes for Torah commandments as a linchpin of the Jewish identity, no Zionism, no secular Jewish literature, no Israeli dances and, of course, no school courses on Israel advocacy. In this sense, Jewish community finds itself as a part of a millennial continuity while many of its members are nowadays electronic engineers, medical doctors and other professionals. They do not follow an ideology, be it Rabbi Hirsch’s Torah im-derekh erets (Torah and worldly pursuits) or Rabbi Soloveitchik’s teachings; they simply continue to “live Jewish” while remaining Iranians and engaging in modern professional pursuits.

In a conversation with Tehran Jews I mentioned Jeffrey Goldberg who did not visit the country but published an offensive comment comparing Iran’s Jews with a petting zoo. My Jewish interlocutors in Tehran were aware of the article but simply shrugged it off.

The warmth and authenticity of Iranian Jews I was lucky to meet deeply impressed me. In Iran I found committed Jews who go about modern life in a seemingly natural manner, without the self-consciousness and identity-splitting of their Ashkenazi brethren. The fact that this happens in a conservative Muslim country points at drastic differences between the history of Jews in the countries of Islam and that of European Jewry. One should not idealize the life of Jews in Iran who have had their share of challenges. But their life stands in contrast to a well-oiled campaign to besmirch the history of Jewish-Muslim relations in order to suit a political agenda, the agenda of those who argue that there is no safe place for Jews except Israel.

About Yakov Rabkin

Yakov M. Rabkin is Professor of History at the University of Montreal; his recent book is What is Modern Israel? Pluto/University of Chicago Press, 2016.

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97 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield
    February 20, 2017, 4:07 pm

    Thank you for a very interesting account. I would like to see the position of Jews in Iran placed in the context of the position of all religious minorities. The minority that has suffered the worst persecution is the Bahai and I wonder what their situation is now.

    I saw a video about Zoroastrians in Iran. Small communities survive in mountainous areas and have recently been permitted to resume open religious practice. Iran is one of only two countries where Zoroastrian communities survive (the Parsees in India being the other).

    I don’t know whether there is a Christian community in Iran. Also I wonder about the position of Sunni Moslems. Are they treated better than Shia in Sunni-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain?

    • gamal
      February 20, 2017, 11:18 pm

      yes thank you important to keep in mind Iran bad, sunni/shia it expalins so much, saudi arabia bahrain, yes thats clear

      “I don’t know whether there is a Christian community in Iran”

      since the time of Christ till today,

      “The warmth and authenticity of Iranian Jews I was lucky to meet deeply impressed me. In Iran I found committed Jews who go about modern life in a seemingly natural manner, without the self-consciousness and identity-splitting of their Ashkenazi brethren”

      yes they even have better Jews than some places.

      also what Rabkin is describing is neither Jewish or uniquely Iranian but is just the culture of the middle east but because its a Jewish culture we don’t have to root around to find something to condemn it for, yay, Iran bad Islam bad, i don’t deny it.

      the BBC have an article up from which

      “Corruption is a rallying cry, an enabler and a key modus operandi for IS,” said Katherine Dixon, director of Transparency International Defence and Security.
      “The failure to grasp this undermines efforts to tackle the rise of violent extremism.
      “The international community expends great efforts tackling the ‘ideology’ of groups such as ISIS, focusing on the religious rhetoric they produce, yet completely ignoring the material circumstances in which they thrive.”

      “completely ignoring the material circumstances in which they thrive.” because Islam bad.

      Irans context and history should not distract us its bad, got it, why comment on something you have not the resolve to study,

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39033875

      • Stephen Shenfield
        February 21, 2017, 7:38 pm

        Asking questions of those with more knowledge than me is my method of study. Some of my questions have been answered, though I’d still like to know about the position of the Bahai.

        My first acquaintance with the great Persian civilization was the Rubbaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which was a gift from my mother. The second came from a metallurgy student from Tabriz with whom I shared digs at college. It seems to me from Professor Rabkin’s account that the Persian civilization is slowly but surely reasserting itself in Iran.

  2. just
    February 20, 2017, 5:26 pm

    Many thanks for this honest and tremendously important article, Professor Rabkin.

    I am grateful for your efforts to delve into and illustrate with your experience what I have witnessed myself. My own impressions and reflections of my experiences have mostly been met with fierce and insane (yes, insane) opposition from ardent Zionists and the wilfully, stubbornly blind and the uninformed/ignorant xenophobes/Iranianphobes/Afghanphobes/Arabphobes/Islamophobes.

    Try to explain that Jewish folk have not been terrorized by everyone on the planet, and the vitriol hits the roof.

    The fact is, Iranians are pretty cool and embarrassingly hospitable in comparison to their Western brothers and sisters. So are Palestinians, Afghans, Iraqis, and others in MENA.

    “The warmth and authenticity of Iranian Jews I was lucky to meet deeply impressed me. In Iran I found committed Jews who go about modern life in a seemingly natural manner, without the self-consciousness and identity-splitting of their Ashkenazi brethren. The fact that this happens in a conservative Muslim country points at drastic differences between the history of Jews in the countries of Islam and that of European Jewry.”

    ;-)

    You’ve offered the world a great opportunity to gain/learn some of the most important truths through your telling of your experience.

    I thank you.

    • objak
      February 20, 2017, 11:48 pm

      “Try to explain that Jewish folk have not been terrorized by everyone on the planet, and the vitriol hits the roof.”

      While I have seen the strident assertion of this assertion often, particularly from people who seem hostile to any notion that there has indeed been anti-Semitism in history, I have actually never read or heard this actual assertion, even in intensely Zionist circles.

      Just who outside of your imagination is offended by the idea that Jews have lived assimilated and peaceful lives in every part of the world on different periods of history? People get rightly vitriolic when antisemitism itself is explained away, as we all should with any type of historical bigotry.

      In fact if you look at, for example, the Jewish holidays of Passover and Purim which are both narrations of victimization, both are also predicated on Jews as living through moments of great acceptance and power. Moses and Mordecai, Esther.

      Ditto secular histories of Jews, by Jewish and non-Jewish historians of all ideologies, which are hardly an unbroken stream of atrocity. So, who are these folks in your mind?

      About the topic of the essay I was amazed to learn elsewhere that mid 19th century Baghdad was apparently almost 1/2 Jewish, more Jewish than Manhattan. I wonder how Jews there now think of that past.

      Also, there are Sasson’s buried in the largest foreign cemetery in Tokyo as they sold carpets and other Silk Road type of products for several generations here.

      • Mooser
        February 21, 2017, 11:36 am

        “Also, there are Sasson’s buried in the largest foreign cemetery in Tokyo as they sold carpets and other Silk Road type of products”

      • RoHa
        February 21, 2017, 2:27 pm

        The famous WW1 poet, Siegfried Sassoon was one of the family.

        (Lord Flasheart: Just because I can give multiple orgasms to the furniture just by sitting on it, doesn’t mean that I’m not sick of this damn war: the blood, the noise, the endless poetry.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yP1vSIOmCc4

      • Mooser
        February 24, 2017, 2:21 pm

        “Just because I can give multiple orgasms to the furniture just by sitting on it”

        There’s an idea. A new, more adult take on the classic “whoopee cushion”. One that, well, ‘makes whooppee’ when sat upon.

  3. DaBakr
    February 20, 2017, 5:31 pm

    Interesting article. Questions…

    Did the author have minders at any point during his travels?

    Persians don’t have any modern history of antipathy for jews other then what was typical for a Muslim society in terms of social, legal and employment issues embodied in the custom of dhimmitude .

    Wether those here believe it or not the 20-25,000 Jews left in Iran enjoy lives free of constant fear but with a large% of Iranian Jews living in Israel there have been times the remaining Jewish population is held as a dangling bargaining chip should any escalation arise.

    4 kosher restaurants in a major city?

    With a tyrannical mullah regime it’s hard, maybe not impossible, but hard to believe statements about Jewish life I Iran as told by Jews are all that reliable unless there is complete anonymity as Iran is not know for permissive for those critical to foreign press.

    While It cant be determined how many of the Iranian Jews are truly anti-zionist, just prefer living in Iran or can’t be open is a question. It’s certain that many Jews prefer to remain in Iran while there are often family members living in Israel.

    Bottom line: while many nefarious plans are being cooked up by Khameini and his IRG for the region and it’s expansionist goals it’s doubtful that any harm to Iranian Jews are part of those plans except as a possible contingency in the event hostilities ensure between Iran and Israel.(at

    Otherwise, this piece comes off as no different then an Israeli article on e.g. : how the leaders of some neighboring Palestinian tribes came to share the Succah in a Jewish town in Judea. Or how far a poor Arab girl rose through Israeli system to become a superior court judge. Touchy feely

    • talknic
      February 20, 2017, 6:31 pm

      @ DaBakr February 20, 2017, 5:31 pm

      “Did the author have minders at any point during his travels?”

      Nothing about ‘minders’ mentioned in the article. You do read the articles, yes?

      “After one morning service in the main synagogue in Isfahan, a fellow congregant when I asked where to get a cab, took me to my hotel on a motorcycle. “

      “Persians don’t have any modern history of antipathy for jews other then what was typical for a Muslim society in terms of social, legal and employment issues embodied in the custom of dhimmitude .”

      Some 20 – 25,000 Iranian Jews who’re free to leave and go to Israel refused the financial assistance offered, deciding to stay in Iran

      ” … there have been times the remaining Jewish population is held as a dangling bargaining chip should any escalation arise”

      “held”? How?

      “4 kosher restaurants in a major city?

      Some 20-25,000 Jews in ALL of Iran, not just in one city.

      “Bottom line: while many nefarious plans are being cooked up by Khameini and his IRG for the region and it’s expansionist goals …”

      What expansionist goals?

      • talknic
        February 25, 2017, 6:40 pm

        DaBakr !!

        What happened? I asked reasonable questions, you conveniently disappeared … again. So Zio

    • amigo
      February 20, 2017, 6:36 pm

      Doubting dubaker,,

      Why don,t you take a little time out from MW and take a trip there yourself and ask those people.You can make sure there are no mullah ears listening in and you don,t have to name names so your interlocutors will be safe .

      Btw, that,s a rip roaring one about Iranian expansionism coming from a zionist supporter of Land theft in occupied Palestine.

      • oldgeezer
        February 20, 2017, 10:38 pm

        @amigo

        Expansion….. Zionists pervert language with the same ease that they pervert morality.

  4. oldgeezer
    February 20, 2017, 5:34 pm

    An extremely fascinating article for me. Full of interesting nuggets apart from the overall picture of Jewish Iranian life.

    Beautiful architecture too.

  5. Kay24
    February 20, 2017, 8:11 pm

    It was great to have such insight into life in Iran. I found the article very interesting, and it clearly gave us a glimpse of life for these Iranian Jews. They seem to be very peaceful people, who have assimilated very well with their fellow Iranians, and able to follow their religion in peace. Shame on Israel, the US and others, who demonize Iran, and conveniently fail to mention the positive side to it. The US and Israel has one goal, and that is to eventually bomb the only Arab nation standing. Israel is tare jealous neighbor whose main intention is to make sure centuries of Iranian culture and history is wiped out. The world has constantly heard the threats against Iran, from Nutty holding up cartoon bombs, to Bush calling them one of the “axis of evil”, and it is ironic these countries keep whining that it is Iran that is dangerous.

    Who appointed Avigdor Lieberman Saudi Arabia’s champion.? It is strange that Israel has
    suddenly become Israel BFF. Dangeorus liaisons.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-israel-iran-idUSKBN15Y0AD

    • Marnie
      February 21, 2017, 3:03 am

      Dangerous liaisons indeed, but they’re so much alike it was inevitable.

    • Theo
      February 21, 2017, 10:45 am

      Sorry Kay24

      however Iran is not an arab nation, you probably ment to say moslem or islamic!

      • Kay24
        February 21, 2017, 8:43 pm

        Correct. They are Shiites and speak Farsi. I did mean Islamic nations.

      • Theo
        February 23, 2017, 12:25 pm

        Kay24

        We are almost there, however Shiits are not a nation, but a branch of Islam, and Farsi is a language spoken in Iran! You wanted to day Iraner or Perser instead of arab!!!

      • amigo
        February 23, 2017, 12:53 pm

        “However, he has problems with reading and understanding what he reads, my recommendation for him is to visit classes for seniors making up for missed times “Theo

        Then Theo posts this Shiit.

        “We are almost there, however Shiits are not a nation, but a branch of Islam, and Farsi is a language spoken in Iran! You wanted to day Iraner or Perser instead of arab!!! -“Theo

        Theo what is an Iraner or a Perser. Are those types of washing up liquid .

        You might take your own advice and attend adult edu classes or alternatively take up truck driving .Learns as you go , so to speak.

        I envy you Theo. You have much to learn.

      • Kay24
        February 23, 2017, 8:47 pm

        Thanks Amigo, it seems Theo has taken it upon himself to correct me, while needing a refresher course himself!!!!

        Theo, from your comment it seems you are not even there yet.

      • Theo
        February 24, 2017, 1:22 pm

        I was waiting for you Amigo,

        your fellow dogs already barked a few times!

        “What is an Iraner or Perser”. Whatever you may think what they are, however they are certainly not arabs!!! Got it?
        Read what Kay24 wrote and try to understand the following comments, and bitte don´t get your IQ to get in the way!! When having problems please contact me again.
        Would you please wake up eljay, his comments are very much desired.
        By the way, it is not polite to get into the conversations of others, unless you are invited!

      • eljay
        February 24, 2017, 4:04 pm
      • amigo
        February 25, 2017, 10:53 am

        “What is an Iraner or Perser”. Whatever you may think what they are, however they are certainly not arabs!!! Got it?” Theo

        No s–t sherlock , I never said they were Arabs .

        Btw , the word is Shiite not Shiit.and a Perser is a Persian and Iraner is an Iranian.

        What was that about IQ Theo.

      • Theo
        February 25, 2017, 1:34 pm

        amigo

        Since I speak several languages fluently and my daily conversations since many years are in the german language, sometimes I mix up words being written differently. It even gets worse when we converse in three different languages. It has nothing to do with intelligence, perhaps old age!
        You want to try it? Oh, I forget, you don´t speak anything else beside english! Kiddo, we are not in the same class, however I am always kind to the less privileged humans.
        You cannot be jewish, they usually have more smarts!!

      • Mooser
        February 25, 2017, 4:41 pm

        “Kiddo, we are not in the same class, however I am always kind to the less privileged humans. You cannot be jewish, they usually have more smarts”

        I guess there’s no Dram Law which applies to the internet.

      • talknic
        February 25, 2017, 6:43 pm

        @ Theo February 25, 2017, 1:34 pm

        “You cannot be jewish, they usually have more smarts!!”

        That counts you out. It isn’t very smart to be a supremacist braggart

      • oldgeezer
        February 25, 2017, 10:59 pm

        @theo

        Like ccatalan you are a legend in your own mind. You come across as a semi-literate ignoramus with an overblown ego. I can seriously state that I don’t mean that in an offensive way. Just about everyone does at some point in time. It can also be at multiple points in time. I don’t exclude myself from that group.

        The only outstanding question is how firmly you wish to cement that impression. So far your efforts are truly remarkable. Congratulations!

      • amigo
        February 26, 2017, 6:50 am

        “That counts you out. It isn’t very smart to be a supremacist braggart ” talknic

        “Heroes are not known by the loftiness of their carriage; the greatest braggarts are generally the merest cowards.” Rousseau.

      • Theo
        February 26, 2017, 9:17 am

        An old chinese proverb says: “Few enemies, little honor, many enemies, a lot of honor”!

      • amigo
        February 26, 2017, 10:56 am

        “An old chinese proverb says: “Few enemies, little honor, many enemies, a lot of honor”! “Theo.

        Thanks for showing us your cards Theo.

        You will get along much better using this as a rule –kiddo.

        “A friend made is a road paved; an enemy created is a wall built.” Old Chinese Proverb.

      • amigo
        February 26, 2017, 2:44 pm

        “Few enemies, little honor, many enemies, a lot of honor”! – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/jews-iran-travelogue/#comment-175506 Theo

        Talknic and I were discussing braggarts.What exactly does your post have to do with that.If you are trying to give the impression you are well read , you failed again.If you must use a proverb ,at least make it relevant.

      • Theo
        February 27, 2017, 1:00 pm

        amigo and talknic

        I keep forgetting you have problems understanding what you read, so I guess I must attach an explanation.

        “Few enemies, little honour………” I was enjoying the mob, who acts like streetgangs in NY or Chicago, all against one at the same time. Should we be physically near, you probably would jump me, Chicago style.
        The english say: “you cannot make out a donkey a racehorse, even if you put an expensive saddle on it” Soemeone who repeats the same BS over and over again, like ziocaine, months after months, regardless what the thema of the article ist, is telling his mental capacity.
        Let me say with Shakespear the following: “The fool thinks he is wise however the wise knows that he is a fool”!!

      • Theo
        February 27, 2017, 1:09 pm

        To all of your ignorants

        I don´t have to brag about anything, I know who am I and where do I come from. My family tree goes back around 300 years, I really don´t care, but my cousine looked it up. At that time the Kennedies and Saltonstalls were potatofarmers in Ireland and England. My great-uncle, brother of my grandfather, was primeminister in a country in Europe.

        Now chew on that!

      • amigo
        February 27, 2017, 4:38 pm

        “My great-uncle, brother of my grandfather, was primeminister in a country in Europe. -” theo

        My how the Mighty fall.

        Get some sleep Theo .You have another full day of day dreaming ahead of you .

      • Mooser
        February 27, 2017, 5:13 pm

        “Theo”, I think it is only fair to warn you.
        It is fairly evident the Moderators here are not going to do you any favors.
        You are on your own.

      • talknic
        February 27, 2017, 5:41 pm

        @ Theo February 27, 2017, 1:00 pm

        “amigo and talknic

        I keep forgetting you have problems understanding what you read, so I guess I must attach an explanation.”

        No need. Zionist propagandists stick out a mile. BTW what is it I have problems understanding that you forgot to or simply can’t mention

        @ Theo February 27, 2017, 1:09 pm

        “I don´t have to brag about anything, I know who am I and where do I come from. “

        Oh OK …. So why are you bragging?

        “My family tree goes back around 300 years, I really don´t care, but my cousine looked it up. At that time the Kennedies and Saltonstalls were potatofarmers in Ireland and England. My great-uncle, brother of my grandfather, was primeminister in a country in Europe.

        Now chew on that!”

        Chew on what? An unsubstantiated claim by a propagandist for Israel = nothing to chew on

        Furthermore what makes you think anyone is gonna believe a supporter of a country in blatant breach of International Law, the UN Charter, relevant Geneva Conventions, numerous UNSC resolutions, It’s own Declaration of Statehood, its own proclamation in its plea for recognition, official representative statements leading up to and after declaring statehood.

        The MW archive shows Zionist shills always drown in their own bullsh*t

      • Keith
        February 27, 2017, 7:54 pm

        THEO- “My great-uncle, brother of my grandfather, was primeminister in a country in Europe.”

        Not downtrodden and persecuted? Hmmm.

      • oldgeezer
        February 27, 2017, 9:43 pm

        @theo

        My family included Florescent Nightingale. That doesn’t make me someone of note, a nurse, qualified to practice medicine, or anything else.

        Get over yourself you moronic narcissist.

      • gamal
        February 27, 2017, 10:41 pm

        “My family included Florescent Nightingale. That doesn’t make me someone of note”

        perhaps not but i bet you’re easy to spot after dark

      • echinococcus
        February 28, 2017, 1:14 am

        Old Geezer,

        Time to switch off your automated spell-checker or word-inserter. Mangled poor Florence, now.

      • talknic
        February 28, 2017, 6:36 am

        @ Keith February 27, 2017, 7:54 pm

        “Not downtrodden and persecuted? Hmmm.”

        Do they realize what they reveal by what they say?

      • YoniFalic
        February 28, 2017, 8:05 am

        Irish history is not my forte. I don’t know whether the Celtic-origin name Kennedy has any significance, but the Fitzgerald family name marks one as a descendant of the Norman elite that conquered Ireland in the 12th century.

      • amigo
        February 28, 2017, 9:16 am

        “My family included Florescent Nightingale.” OG

        That is the height of consideration OG, mispelling that word so Theo would understand it and that after he called us “Ignorants”.

      • oldgeezer
        February 28, 2017, 9:54 am

        @echinococcus

        No, she was always ahead of her time and in the family a flickering beacon of light to us all.

        Geeze… I thought I had it defeated. I recorrected it three times and it looked good when I clicked on post.

      • Mooser
        February 28, 2017, 11:16 am

        “My family included Florescent Nightingale.”

        So that’s why they called her “The Lady with the Lamp”!

      • Mooser
        February 28, 2017, 11:49 am

        Do they realize what they reveal…”

        “Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”

      • Theo
        February 28, 2017, 12:33 pm

        Boy, oh boy, I am having fun, so many jumps to my order, Prof. Pavlov would be proud of me!!

        My great-great-great-great uncle, (Mooser knows how many greats I need there), Aristoteles, would say: a bunch of “Homo risibilis”!!!

        Mooser,
        just let them coming, it doesn´t bother me, they are destroying the reputation of MW, not mine! Five years ago I was told that MW is a serious blog, it may have been until the clowns showed up. As far as the moderation goes, it never worked, you called me a nazi and a zionist only a few days apart and they let all your insult through.

        Am I a zionist? Look at the many attacks on jews or jewish objects, you are getting to be a hated minority, so make an aliya and move to the land of milk and honey, (all imported). I will put in a good word to Nini, he may need a bunch of clown, as israelis don´t have many reasons for a laugh.
        Am I a nazi? Homeland did build a bunch of fenced in camps, just in case they need them. Personally I find this not funny, however you brought up the subject.

        To all participants, do you think you have a brain? Did you see it? Either prove it to me or I don´t believe you! Your mob action fits 15 years olds, but not grown men, it seems the europeans are right that americans never grow up, but just get old!
        And I used to get upset hearing this, but one learns something new every single day!

      • Mooser
        February 28, 2017, 1:52 pm

        “Theo”, get a refill.
        Maybe the flood of conflicting ideas and agitation will lessen.

      • echinococcus
        February 28, 2017, 2:55 pm

        Old Geezer,

        Here’s one more tribute to good old Nightingale –from an old guy whom she directed to a fulfilling occupation.

      • talknic
        February 28, 2017, 9:06 pm

        @ Theo February 28, 2017, 12:33 pm

        “Boy, oh boy, I am having fun, so many jumps to my order, Prof. Pavlov would be proud of me!! = Zio in melt down mode

      • RoHa
        March 1, 2017, 3:29 am

        Aristotle spoke Latin?

      • Theo
        March 1, 2017, 11:09 am

        Roha
        “Aristoteles spoke latine”
        I was too young at that time, therefore cannot remember, however if you go into Google, (that saves you a trip to the library), you will find this is attributed to him. Probably the romans brought it back to our part of civilisation and is a translation.

      • Mooser
        March 1, 2017, 4:04 pm

        “= Zio in melt down mode”

        And here’s “Theo” back again, working away at the old stand, as if yesterday’s outbursts bolstered his credibility! Ho-kay!

  6. JosephA
    February 21, 2017, 2:00 am

    I want to thank the author for this wonderful article. I can attest to the accuracy of the article, as I visited Iran for 2 wonderful weeks in April of 2016. It was quite an eye opening experience, and my first trip to the Middle East.

    Iran has a decent mix of minorities, including large numbers of Armenians (who are held in high esteem, as it was explained that the Armenians brought the first printing press to Iran), Jews (we saw synagogues in many of the cities that we visited), Afghanis, Zoroastrians, etc.

    It was a beautiful country to visit, and I hope that the US of A and my tax dollars do not contribute to a war there.

    It is important to remember that while Jews were kicked from pillar to post in Christian Europe, they were not so (mis)treated in the Ottoman / Islamic world. My family comes from Iraq, which had a thriving Jewish community (as well as a diversity of other minorities). Many of the middle eastern countries did have thriving Jewish communities, and it is sad that they are no longer present, mainly because of Zionism.

    Thanks again for sharing such a wonderful article.

  7. Marnie
    February 21, 2017, 3:00 am

    They are living their lives as jews in the most humble, original way imho. Very funny part about meeting a jewish woman and her son and taking them to the synagogue while they insulted the ‘antisemitic’ country they were visiting the entire time, completely unaware of the courtesy shown to them as they were strangers (um, Abraham and Sarah?) as jewish tradition. Beautiful article and people.

  8. Citizen
    February 21, 2017, 3:48 am

    It’s interesting to compare the depiction of Jewish life in current Iran by Mr. Rabkin with the character and culture of the Jewish “Persians” living in Hollywood area, as revealed on the US reality show Shahs Of Sunset.

  9. Ossinev
    February 21, 2017, 8:29 am

    @Kay24
    Who appointed Avigdor Lieberman Saudi Arabia’s champion.? It is strange that Israel has suddenly become Israel BFF. Dangeorus liaisons.

    In the Reuters report Herr Liberman says quote:
    “The real division is not Jews, Muslims … but moderate people versus radical people”

    By ” moderate people” I assume that he is referring to eg Zioland`s latest and probably greatest national hero the revolting IDF “medic” scumbag Elor Azaria who has just been sentenced to 18 months for the cold blooded murder ( cancel that Zios killing Palestinians = manslaughter ) of a defenceless Palestinian. He is the current national Ziohero but he will not be able to rest on his laurels because Zioland and in particular the most moral etc is awash with these repugnant sickos. Still he has not been expelled from the IDF presumably because they strongly believe that he is very very moral. He has merely been demoted , so he will no doubt bless him have plenty of opportunities to practice and fine tune his “medical” skills in the future by getting in more practice on live Palestinians.

    His defence team is appealing (very cute) but in any case he will probably get 18 months commuted from his “sentence” for bad behaviour.

  10. CigarGod
    February 21, 2017, 9:43 am

    I guess I enjoyed that journey more than any I’ve taken in a long time.
    The bit about the arrogant woman from Israel was interesting. Made me think of the people who take tours of Palestine from within the tinted glass and air conditioned bubbles…so they don’t actually have to meet anyone or get any dust on them…yet return home as experts.

    • Jon66
      February 21, 2017, 2:28 pm

      There was no mention in the article about the woman being from Israel. It was a French speaking middle aged woman. We see what we want to see.

      • amigo
        February 21, 2017, 3:58 pm

        “There was no mention in the article about the woman being from Israel. It was a French speaking middle aged woman. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/jews-iran-travelogue/#comment-175506“Jon 66

        No but she could easily be mistaken for such.She had all the necessary vile habits.

        “Suddenly a middle-aged lady to my left questioned me in French: “Vous avez dit synagogue? Is there a synagogue in the city?” and asked me to take her and her son there. On the way, she began to deplore the fate of Iranian Jews – whom she had never met by then – who must live under an “anti-Semitic government.” On the way I tried to explain to her that opposition to Zionism need not be anti-Semitic, but did not make much headway. She considers herself a proud secular Jew and an unconditional supporter of Israe – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/jews-iran-travelogue/#comment-175506

        Scraping the bottom of the barrel again Jon.

  11. Jon66
    February 21, 2017, 12:53 pm

    Great article.
    Hypothetical- if the Israeli government granted the same rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority as the Iranians give to Jews, would the Palestinians be satisfied with those rights?

    • eljay
      February 21, 2017, 1:41 pm

      || Jon66: … Hypothetical- if the Israeli government granted the same rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority as the Iranians give to Jews, would the Palestinians be satisfied with those rights? ||

      Jewish Iranians should have the same rights as non-Jewish Iranians in a secular and democratic Iran (not an “Islamic State” or a “Persian State”).

      Non-Jewish Israelis should have the same rights as Jewish Israelis in a secular and democratic Israel (not a “Jewish State”).

      Neither Jewish Iranians nor non-Jewish Israelis should be expected or required to accept anything less.

      • Jon66
        February 21, 2017, 2:23 pm

        I agree that I would like to live in a secular democratic state, but much of the world has other models. many states have official religions.

      • eljay
        February 21, 2017, 2:48 pm

        || Jon66: I agree that I would like to live in a secular democratic state, but much of the world has other models. many states have official religions. ||

        I think that’s unfortunate. But I don’t see why Israel – a self-professed “moral beacon”, “light unto the nations” and “Western-style democracy” state – should model itself after Iran. There’s no reason – other than whataboutery – for it to be anything other than the secular and democratic state of and for all if its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally.

      • Jon66
        February 21, 2017, 4:15 pm

        Eljay,
        For the sake of argument, let’s assume that a secular democracy is ‘better’ and more ‘moral’ than other forms of government ( it’s a Western centric view, but I do agree with you).
        I don’t think Israel should model itself after Iran either, but if there is no comparison to be made between the two, than what was the point of the article on this website?

      • eljay
        February 21, 2017, 6:23 pm

        || Jon66: Eljay,
        For the sake of argument, let’s assume that a secular democracy is ‘better’ and more ‘moral’ than other forms of government ( it’s a Western centric view, but I do agree with you). … ||

        Cool. :-)

        || … I don’t think Israel should model itself after Iran either … ||

        That’s good.

        || … but if there is no comparison to be made between the two, than what was the point of the article on this website? ||

        The article’s final paragraph seems to sum things up quite nicely:

        In Iran I found committed Jews who go about modern life in a seemingly natural manner, without the self-consciousness and identity-splitting of their Ashkenazi brethren. … their life stands in contrast to a well-oiled campaign to besmirch the history of Jewish-Muslim relations in order to suit … the agenda of those who argue that there is no safe place for Jews except Israel.

        I don’t see how you derive from that an argument that non-Jewish Israelis should have the same rights as Jewish Iranians.

      • Jon66
        February 21, 2017, 9:14 pm

        Amigo,
        CigarGod misidentifies a woman and assumes she must be Israeli because she is “arrogant” and I’m the one who is wrong? Perhaps you can explain.

        Eljay
        Not an argument. Just a question. The author portrays a country with relations between Jews and Muslims that is superior to that in Western countries.

      • eljay
        February 22, 2017, 7:20 am

        || Jon66: … CigarGod misidentifies a woman and assumes she must be Israeli because she is “arrogant” and I’m the one who is wrong? … ||

        I don’t think you’re wrong. The woman in question is a Zionist, but that doesn’t mean she’s Israeli.

        || … Eljay Not an argument. Just a question. … ||

        Right, the question was:

        … if the Israeli government granted the same rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority as the Iranians give to Jews, would the Palestinians be satisfied with those rights?

        I’ll re-phrase and re-state my answer: I don’t know whether or not non-Jewish Israelis would be satisfied with rights in Israel similar to those granted to Jewish Iranians by Iran, but I don’t think they should be put in the position of having to find that out. Non-Jewish Israelis should be given the same rights as Jewish Israelis in a secular and democratic Israel (not a “Jewish State”).

      • Mooser
        February 22, 2017, 11:47 am

        “and assumes she must be Israeli because she is “arrogant”

        See that, “Jon66”!
        You got your wish.
        We are a ‘people’ now, complete with reputation.

      • amigo
        February 22, 2017, 12:56 pm

        “CigarGod misidentifies a woman and assumes she must be Israeli because she is “arrogant” and I’m the one who is wrong? Perhaps you can explain.” Jon66

        No one here said you were wrong.That was your inference.Read my response again and avoid seeing what you want to see.

        “No but she could easily be mistaken for such.She had all the necessary vile habits”

      • echinococcus
        February 22, 2017, 2:22 pm

        John 66,

        Arrogance and pushiness over and above anything usual is the telltale sign of a Zionist. If Israelian or not is irrelevant –they all can have that passport anyway.

        And yes, the quote marks around arrogance are unnecessary. As a Zionist you’d be hard put to judge.

      • Mooser
        February 22, 2017, 3:51 pm

        “Jon 66”, take it from me, when all other arguments fail, you stick with Zionist moral ascendancy, it’ll win out every time.

    • Maghlawatan
      February 21, 2017, 2:59 pm

      If the future Palestinian majority shunted all the Sabras into Gaza and bombed them occasionally would it be karma ?

      • oldgeezer
        February 21, 2017, 4:14 pm

        It would only be karma if they cried about the victims forcing them to do it. While stealing their lunch money behind the fake tears

      • Jon66
        February 21, 2017, 9:18 pm

        Mag,
        I am not familiar enough with Buddhism to give you an answer.

      • Maghlawatan
        February 22, 2017, 7:58 am

        Jon, it would be fair and you could create a new Jewish holiday out of the experience.

    • talknic
      February 21, 2017, 5:54 pm

      @ Jon66 February 21, 2017, 12:53 pm

      ” … if the Israeli government granted the same rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority as the Iranians give to Jews ….”

      So Israel doesn’t grant the same rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority . Glad we got that sorted.

      Now about your inability to handle logic, facts and the basic common sense tenets of Judaism

      • Jon66
        February 21, 2017, 9:20 pm

        Talknic,
        I think you missed the “if”. Perhaps less time on the insults and more time on reading the post.

      • talknic
        February 21, 2017, 11:45 pm

        Strange, I quote the “if”

      • Theo
        February 22, 2017, 1:28 pm

        Jon66

        Don´t get upset, talknic is a retired truckdriver, or was it bus, learned his manners at those many truckstops where he ate his daily burgers, and now he is working on his PhD on I/P relations! However, he has problems with reading and understanding what he reads, my recommendation for him is to visit classes for seniors making up for missed times.
        In addition he is one of the MW watchdogs, when they let him off the leash, then he attacks anyone who is not conform with blog ideas, he is just a yes man.

      • Mooser
        February 22, 2017, 4:02 pm

        Please forgive “Theo” .
        He’s obviously been somewhere o’er the yardam.
        Or hoisted a few too many petards.

      • talknic
        February 22, 2017, 6:51 pm

        @ Theo February 22, 2017, 1:28 pm

        ” … Don´t get upset, talknic is a retired truckdriver, or was it bus, learned his manners at those many truckstops where he ate his daily burgers, and now he is working on his PhD on I/P relations! However, he has problems with reading and understanding what he reads, my recommendation for him is to visit classes for seniors making up for missed times.
        In addition he is one of the MW watchdogs, when they let him off the leash, then he attacks anyone who is not conform with blog ideas, he is just a yes man. “

        Only a raving idiot would completely undermine their own credibility by so clearly demonstrating how when they have no answers and/or are shown to be wrong, they dig a deeper cat hole with personal attacks consisting of completely inane, unsupported drivel.

        It is however, typical of supporters of the vile Zionist Colonial Enterprise to resort to breaking the basic tenets of Judaism on behalf of the Jewish State. The harder they try, the more they show themselves to be devoid of any principles or moral fibre

        ————-

        Good one Theo, you’re doing a great job

        Keep up th’ good work

      • talknic
        February 22, 2017, 7:09 pm

        Mooser February 22, 2017, 4:02 pm

        “Please forgive “Theo” “

        Uh? He’s doing a great job at discrediting himself. All praise to Theo and co. They’re real champs. There should be streets named after them

      • Mooser
        February 23, 2017, 3:13 pm

        Gee, now “Theo” likes Trump, and Netanyahoo. What next, a rendition of “Samovar Over the Rainbow” filled with praise for Putin?

  12. NorthCascadian
    February 22, 2017, 10:37 am

    “finding kosher food and celebrating the Sabbath and the holiday of Purim also brought me in contact with Iranian Jews”
    I’ve often wondered what the Persian nation of Iran thinks about Purim. Not a pretty story, not a very universal message. Awkward extras like “ozney Haman” – which is Hebrew for “Haman’s ears.”
    Where are those Jewish holidays that call for peace and harmony among all people?

  13. Mooser
    February 22, 2017, 6:22 pm

    “One such conflict about kosher food a century ago resulted in physical violence.”

    Oh, we’ve come a long way since then! .

    “And who was sick at the House supper?”

    • echinococcus
      February 23, 2017, 3:50 am

      Yeah, the banquet that proved that Eastern European obscurantist, superstitious bigots were already as ridiculous and dangerous as the Iranian mollahs would become …almost a hundred years later.

      • Mooser
        February 23, 2017, 3:29 pm

        “Yeah, the banquet…/… Iranian mollahs would become”

        “Echin” maybe you need a medium-sized adult dose Mulliner’s Buck-Uppo? The kind they use on the elephants. Type “B”, I think it is.

      • echinococcus
        February 23, 2017, 6:50 pm

        Mooser, what a crazy idea. If there is one person who would never need Mulliner’s Buck-me-Uppo to start baying for the blood of religious crazies, that’s your eternal admirer Echinococcus, the tapeworm! What can be religiouser and crazier than to start a food fight based on what people can eat?

      • Mooser
        February 24, 2017, 12:10 pm

        If I am not mistaken, the imbroglio arose because a kosher caterer wasn’t sure what that was exactly. There’s no tenderloin of pork on the menu, only “ocean vegetables”.

      • echinococcus
        February 24, 2017, 8:49 pm

        Mooser, the imbroglio arose as you say but the Rabbies, I see, have been howling death then and all the way to now.

        Interesting to note that in the last 50 years or so, Muslims, hitherto content with avoiding pork and drunkenness, have increasingly been looking like the (mainly Ashkenaze) pious Chosen and the (mainly American) Puritans to complicate to death the allowed food and drink choices. Get religion, give up life.

      • Mooser
        February 25, 2017, 11:01 am

        “to complicate to death the allowed food and drink choices. Get religion, give up life.”

        “Echin”, I have been saying, for years, that Judaism desperately needs trained, ordained, Chef Rabbis.

  14. gamal
    February 23, 2017, 7:50 am

    A Palestinian discusses Trump and Iran, there’s gold in them there propagandas

    http://www.raialyoum.com/?p=623862

  15. subconscious
    February 24, 2017, 3:36 am

    Prof. Rabkin’s article is an interesting and informative read. However, some of the conclusions drawn by the author are not well-supported. He mentions the positive image of Jews among the Iranians he came across as evidence that the European stereotypes of the “cheap”, “dishonest” and “rapacious” Jew are not the norm in Iran. These very stereotypes, and worse, do exist in Iran and are actually promulgated by certain government sectors every once in a while, even though it’s quite possible that they are not shared by a large part, even a majority, of Iranians. An example of state-sponsored antisemtism would be Iran’s broadcast media, entirely state-controlled, under the supervision of hardliners, which for years have broadcast Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion type of stories as historical facts. In various state-funded historical films on Iranian TV, Jewish villains are depicted as the main characters behind British colonialism and Western imperialism (long before the creation of Israel) bent on subverting Islam in Iran. These Jewish characters are, in fact, often fictitious or, at best, of marginal, if any, historical relevance. The motivation for these Jewish conspiracies is often portrayed as fulfilling commandments from the Talmud and Kabalah, and sometimes even the Torah.

    Jewish representatives, on various occasions throughout the years, have objected to such vulgar and naked official antisemitism in the IRI. As an example, you can find this open letter from then-Jewish parliament rep Maurice Motamed to Ahmadinejad in 2005, currently posted at Tehran’s Jewish Committee website:
    http://www.iranjewish.com/News_F/news_28_04_motamed1.htm
    Excerpt: “I … on multiple occasions in … [parliament] speeches and in writings and direct visits to responsible authorities of the country have expressed my and the Jewish community’s objections to publishing books and articles and producing programs or TV series, which under the guise of opposing Zionism, display their own antisemitic thoughts, and attempt to insult Jewish religious and moral precepts, thereby, in addition to dismaying Jewish Iranians …, they have also provoked that group of individuals whose opinions and anxieties are inflamed by reading such articles, viewing antisemitic series, and who may unwittingly take actions which undoubtedly are not desired by the system [regime]. [In case the wording is obtuse, he means the propaganda may provoke antisemitic attacks.] In particular, recently in TV programming relating to the [holy] month of Ramadan we witness a TV series whose vitriol and attack are directed solely against the Jews.” Motamed goes on to request that more respect towards Jewish rights and sensibilities be afforded in state-sanctioned/sponsored publications and broadcasts, so as to preempt propaganda against Iran in the foreign media. So far as I could tell, Motamed’s protestations did not affect production of antisemitic propaganda during Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Some years earlier, during reformist Khatami’s administration, Motamed had even claimed that much of the emigration of Iran’s Jewish population (currently between 10 to 20 thousand) from around 60,000 at the time of the revolution, may have been due to fears induced by IRI’s antisemitic propaganda. While Islamic Republic’s official line distinguishes Zionim from Judaism and claims that the latter is honored as a divine religion, a rule of thumb should inform us that often there can be a wide gap between propaganda and practice by any state.

    The roots of modern antisemitism in Iran are mainly attributed to 2 periods. One is the ascendancy of Shia fundamentalism in Iran in the 16th century, highlighting the ritual uncleanliness of non-Muslims with an emphasis on the Jews. The other is importation of Western antisemitic and Aryan supremacist notions during the modernization period from around mid 19th to mid 20th centuries.

    Former head of the Tehran Jewish Committee, Haroun Yeshayai, mentioned in the professor’s article (and featured in the last photo, sitting between his daughter and the author) wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad in 2006 criticizing his Holocaust denial:
    http://www.bbc.com/persian/iran/story/2006/02/060210_mf_holocaust.shtml
    Excerpt from his letter: “Programming and daily emphasis of Islamic Republic’s Radio & TV and some other mass media on the fictitiousness of the massacre of the Jews at the hand of Hitler’s Nazi regime (the Holocaust) and challenging one of the most evident and saddest human incidents in the 20th century, has perplexed the world and caused apprehension and fear among Iran’s small Jewish community.” He added that the denial does nothing for the Palestinians and the oppressed Muslims, but “only alleviates psychological complexes of the racists.” This provided the Ahmadinejad administration the excuse to force him out, as mentioned in the article.

    Another point of contention with the author’s conclusions is his inference of the anti-Zionism of Iran’s Jewry, which is mostly contrived and not deeply rooted. In fact, there’s no history of significant, if any, anti-Zionism among Iran’s Jewry prior to the Islamic revolution. On the contrary, as the Encyclopaedia Iranica indicates, “Iran’s first Zionist committee was formed in Hamadan in 1912, probably in reaction to the Bahais’ overwhelming success in converting Jews there … Zionism and later the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 instilled a new sense of self-confidence in Iran’s Jewish community and provided them with a vital psychological boost. Many Persian Jews now saw the successes of their coreligionists in the Promised Land as a fulfillment of their messianic aspirations and an end to their misery as an impoverished and disadvantaged minority. Iran’s Jewish community gradually adopted a more Westernized version of Judaism, less preoccupied with issues of messianic expectation and more engaged with Zionism.” Even during the reign of Reza Shah, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, when Zionist activity was illegal and head of the Iranian Zionist organization, who encouraged emigration to Palestine, which was obstructed by the gov’t, was executed, emigration did not cease. During the reign of the last Shah, when relations w/ Israel became close and emigration was allowed, about half of Iran’s 80,000-strong Jewish community emigrated to Israel in the 60’s & 70’s, though a small number returned to Iran. In contrast to many Arab states, Iranian Jews emigrated to Israel voluntarily and not under gov’t duress. Right before the revolution Iran’s 60,000-strong Jewish community was the largest in the world. Now, Israel has around 250,000, the US around 65,000 and Iran under 20,000 Persian Jews. The author mentions a Skype conversation with a Persian Jew in Israel who pretended to be in the US. This is b/c they were worried that if the Iranian authorities were to detect contact w/ Israel, which is illegal, the Jewish host in Iran may have faced consequences. Jews from Iran occasionally travel to Israel to visit family or seek medical treatment by arranging with the Israeli embassy in Turkey to not stamp their Iranian passports.

    Iranian-American Jewish political organizations, such as “30 Years After,” are basically an extension of AIPAC and the Israeli consulates. They actively lobby for strong sanctions and hawkish and neocon policies on Iran and unwavering US support for Israeli policies. There is a flow of Iran’s Jews, mostly young, emigrating to the US and there’s no discernible anti-Zionism among them. Almost all of them end up supporting the “Israel advocacy” of the existing Iranian-American Jewry or, at best, are not particularly engaged with the issue. All Persian synagogues in LA & NY are ultra-Zionist strongholds, and Netanyahu is quite popular among the Iranian-American Jewry.
    http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/131968/
    http://jewishjournal.com/cover_story/177006/
    http://jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/131069/
    http://jewishjournal.com/nation/131847/
    http://jewishjournal.com/lifestyle/185957/
    http://jewishjournal.com/cover_story/175924/
    http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/176103/
    http://jewishjournal.com/cover_story/187364/
    https://youtu.be/KIAjqLhqhWE?t=3065
    https://youtu.be/mBidNBmeFAI?t=4524

    The anti-Zionism among Iran’s Jewry is mostly contrived in order to be politically correct and acceptable as a Jewish minority w/in the ideological constraints of the Islamic Republic.
    Moreover, since the incessant anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda of the Islamic Republic is tainted with vulgar antisemitism, as described above, it’s not that surprising that Iran’s Jews may counter that by identifying Zionism w/ their Jewishness. Iranian authorities are more than likely aware of these distortions, but status quo and pretenses are mostly maintained. Iran’s Jewish leadership, presumably the 4 or 5 the author mentions as asking most of the questions during his talk, are mostly the ones fashioning an anti-Zionist narrative adapted from Western Jewry, such as Prof. Rabkin, b/c there is no indigenous version they can identify with. They may not be as zealously pro-Israel as their fellow AIPAC-dominated Persian Jews in America, but neither are Iran’s Jews as ideologically anti-Zionist as their leadership professes. This is not an admirable circumstance as the author believes. It is much healthier and will have a more lasting effect to have an open exchange of conflicting ideas.

    The author also admires the ancient and native Jewish identity of his hosts. But there is some social engineering in that, as well. Essentially, Muslim-non-Muslim marriages are outlawed in Iran, which is over 99% Muslim, and the theocratically-motivated gov’t encourages religiosity among the recognized religious minorities, as well as among Muslims. So traditional identities are less fluid than would be in more open societies. This also motivates young Jews of Iran to be continuously emigrating to the US for better marriage (and lifestyle) opportunities, thinning the native community even more. For more on modern history of Iran’s Jewry:
    http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/judeo-persian-vi-the-pahlavi-era-1925-1979
    http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/judeo-5-2-qajar-conversion-of-jews

    As a side note, censorship through deletion or modification, is not unheard of in official Iranian translations of political works. Unless an independent reader versed in both languages can verify it, suspicion of modification exists. (And as a minor point, the current [since 2008] Jewish MP’s last name is Moreh Sedgh; Siamak is his first name.)

    • Mooser
      February 25, 2017, 7:42 pm

      I can hear my “subconcious” speaking, and it tells me if I try, I can make the consequences of Zionism all somebody elses fault.

    • talknic
      February 27, 2017, 5:56 pm

      “We need to be the voice of Israel, the voice that upholds, uplifts and supports Israel, our home country, and our brave IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers who bravely, tirelessly and selflessly stand in our defense. … If we don’t, who else will?” said Simon Etehad, president of the Beverly Hills-based Iranian Nessah Synagogue.”
      http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/131968/

      If he was an Iranian, surely his homeland was Iran and now if he’s a citizen of the USA, it’s the USA. But no, it’s Israel and the IDF are his protectors, protecting him, in the USA.

      His mess is really in need of a sorting

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