This morning France 24, the English language French news channel, broadcast a report on the Jews of Iran. Normally, France 24 is one of the best, if not the best, news channel on air. This time, however, it failed. (Having said this, they did have a representative of the Jewish community in France provide some context).
But what’s the story? The story is that one of the oldest ethnic communities on earth is about to come to an end, and it’s last representatives are being held hostage. You’re not going to see this on the front pages of the world’s newspapers but, basically, Iran’s Jewish community is one of the oldest continuous communities on earth. They’ve been in Iran, formerly Persia, for 2700 years i.e., they got to Iran about 1400 years before Islam!
According to the Bible, the first Israelites to get to the area were the so called “lost tribes of Israel” i.e., the ten northern tribes of the Kingdoms of Judea and Israel. For those who don’t know, according to the Bible, there were 12 tribes of Israel corresponding to the 12 sons of the patriarch Jacob. Basically, each tribe were the descendants of one son. According to the Torah, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, at the giving of the Ten Commandments, there were 12 tribes who became members of the Biblical covenant of Israel (for more information, see my films “Quest for the Lost Tribes” and “The Exodus Decoded” available at www.apltd.ca/store). Under the Biblical prophet Joshua, the Israelites conquered Canaan. They were then ruled by a series of judges until King David set up a monarchy to rule over a united kingdom. After the reign of King Solomon (David’s son) the kingdom broke into two. In the north there was Israel, and in the south Judea. Ten of the twelve tribes were in the north.
In 722 BCE the Assyrian Empire (based in modern Iraq) conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and exiled ten of the twelve tribes. According to the Bible, some of them were exiled to the area of modern Iran, ancient Media/Persia….and the Jews have lived in that area ever since. More than this, they were probably instrumental in helping the Persians under King Cyrus defeat the Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE. For the Jews, it was payback for the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple of Solomon in 586 BCE. As a thank you, the Persians allowed the exiled Jews of Babylon to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple in 516 BCE. This happened in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the Great.
Basically, the Jews have been in Iran since 722 BCE and helped the Persians create an empire. More than this, the history of the Persians and the Jews have been interlocked. To this day, the Jewish holiday of “Purim” celebrated in February, commemorates the victory of the Jews against genocidal enemies led by a Hitler type figure named Haman. The heroine of the Purim story i.e., the woman who caused Haman’s downfall and the rescue of the Jews of the Persian Empire is Queen Esther. She was married to the ruler of Persia. She was Queen of Persia and, according to tradition, she was the mother of the Emperor Darius. In other words, the Jews helped the Persians build their empire and the Persians helped the Jews build the temple in Jerusalem.
And now, after 2700 years, the Jews have been reduced to a community of 8500 people. The Iranian government, led by a Holocaust denier, uses the tiny Jewish community as a showcase for its policy of “tolerance”, while it’s building nuclear weapons to drop on Jerusalem. It seems that when it comes to the Jews, in Persia/Iran there is no middle ground. It has always been home to rulers like Darius, who helped to build Jerusalem, and politicians like Haman who want to totally destroy it.
As for the world, does it lament the final days of the once glorious Jewish community of Iran? Has anybody noticed that it’s about to come to an end? Are there any flotillas en route to Iran to try to help Iranian Jews? Quite the contrary, France 24 broadcast a bit of Iranian propaganda applauding the tolerance which allows Judaism to “thrive” in modern day Iran. They even interviewed members of the community who, of course, were not afraid to speak their minds. After all, modern Iran is known for the rationality of their leaders and their love of the Jewish people. Very sad. How can France 24 rationalize interviewing people who have a gun to their head, and presenting these interviews as true reflections of the opinions of the interview subjects?
But to get back to Purim, the modern day Hamans should remember the lessons of this Jewish holiday. At the end of the day, Haman and his ten sons hung from the very gallows that they prepared for the Jewish people. Ahmadinejad, the modern day Haman of Iran, should take note of what happened to the Nazi leaders who plotted the destruction of the Jews during WWII. In 1946, ten Nazi leaders were hung as war criminals in Nuremberg, Germany. This “coincidence” did not go unnoticed. On October 16, as they put the noose around Nazi leader Julius Streicher’s neck, Newsweek reported: “He stared at the witnesses facing the gallows and shouted ‘Purimfest, 1946.’” Streicher realized that once again Haman’s descendants had been defeated. It’s a lesson Ahmadinejad should take to heart as he’s building his version of Haman’s gallows. In the end, you may end up hanging on the very gallows you’ve constructed.
The next Jewish holiday on the calendar is Purim.