Friday, 24 April 2009

What do Iran's Jews think?

Iran's Jews are seen as a source of pride, a forgotten part of the diaspora, a jewel in a crown, a protected minority, a possible Zionist fifth column and a sign of religious diversity in the Islamic Republic, all depending on your perspective. The exodus to Israel and the United States from Iran after the Islamic Republic was founded has left only 25,000 Persian Jews remaining.

Ed Cohen, writing for the International Herald Tribune finds that behind all the rhetoric, official anti-Israel posturing, a Jew can still find himself welcome in Iran:

Still a mystery hovers over Iran's Jews. It's important to decide what's more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations - or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshiping in relative tranquility.

Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran - its sophistication and culture - than all the inflammatory rhetoric.

That may be because I'm a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that all the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian television, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it's because I'm convinced the "Mad Mullah" caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 - a position popular in American Jewish circles - is misleading and dangerous.

Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran talks about her experience as an Jewish Iranian at this roundtable with other female Iranian authors, poets and artists.

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