Esor Ben-Sorek

Iran. Anti-Semitic? Not.

I was recently impressed by a news article from Iran which showed the prime minister, president, and Revolutionary Guards standing in respect in front of a memorial monument to thirteen Iranian Jewish soldiers who had been killed in the Iran-Iraq war.

It was quite touching to see the Muslim leaders paying their respects while a rabbi in Teheran recited the kaddish prayer in Hebrew at the site.

Jews worldwide and in particular here in Israel have been anti-Iran since the 1979 revolution which overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Khomeini as leader of the country whose name had been changed from the Kingdom of Iran to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iranians hang homosexuals and drug addicts. They neither hang nor persecute the 8000 Jews who live peacefully in Iran. There is even a Jewish member serving in the Iranian parliament.

There are synagogues in every major city and there are rabbis who officiate at Jewish services.

The Iranian government has placed only one…. one single restriction upon the rabbis. And that is that they should not preach about Israel in their synagogues, nor demonstrate any loyalty to Israel.

Are Iranians anti-Semitic? No. They are 100% anti Zionism and Israel. The strangest thing is that the government declares its desire to destroy the State of Israel but will not do harm to the Jewish people.

How they intend to destroy the Jewish State without doing harm to the Jewish people is beyond my wildest imagination.

And if, God forbid, Israel would be destroyed it would be done so at the hands of our own Jews. I think that too many of us hate other Jews who differ from us.

It was sinat chinam, causeless hatred, which destroyed our holy temple in Jerusalem and caused the Jews to flee for safety in exile.

And while in exile, they prayed daily for the return to Zion and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple.

Nevertheless, after the Persian (Iranian) conquest of Babylonia, the kings of Persia, Cyrus and then Darius permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and gave them gold with which to rebuild their temple.

Ancient and modern Persians (Iranians) have respect for religions. And while Jews who live in Muslim Arab countries are required to pay a tax for their safety and security, no such thing ever existed in Iran.

Under the monarchy of Emperor Reza Pahlavi who sat on the Peacock throne until forced out by the Iranian revolution, Jews held positions of high honor in Iran.

Jews were among the wealthiest citizens of Iran. Jewish doctors treated members of the royal family. Rabbis prayed for the welfare of the emperor and his family at Shabbat services.

Iran was a genuine paradise for Jews until 1979. And even though many thousands of Jews fled the country taking whatever possessions they could carry or smuggle out, the Jews who chose to remain in their lavish homes continue to enjoy religious freedom without government interference.

The American candidate for the 2020 presidential elections, the Democratic Jewish Senator from the state of Vermont, is vehement in stating that one can criticize the government of Israel, its racism which many unjustly call “apartheid,” without being called an anti-Semite.

Just as American citizens can criticize the government and demand the impeachment of a sitting president, it does not make them anti-American. It is gratefully the freedom which gives them the right to hold on to their convictions even if they are misguided ones.

The ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel, Neturai Karta for example, show no loyalty to the country in which they were born and live in. They refuse to salute our flag or to sing our national anthem or to serve in our military forces which is mandated for every male and female after the age of eighteen.

Even those of us who strongly disagree with them and in fact hate them and wish they would leave our country, cannot be called anti-Semites. Anti-zealots would be a more appropriate name.

Iranian Jews who live outside of Iran long for the day when the present Muslim religious republic will be overthrown by its own people.

If that were to happen, I predict an overflow of Jews in exile returning to the cities in which they had lived prior to the revolution.

All that they are waiting for is a new Cyrus or a new Darius.

History has a way of repeating itself.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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