The view from my veranda

Mid-week report on the Jews of Iran


23rd July 2013.

Hello dear friends. I decided to send you a special report because it is so important. It is relevant to the Maccabiah although not directly. Nothing tragic has happened and we are enjoying every moment of the Maccabiah Family – indeed we are about to leave for Kfar Maccabiah and the presentation of Yakir Maccabi to our dear friend Allen Gerskup and a special few people who give their lives to Maccabi, but this is important anyway. Hopefully not a warning to the world but important

I know you are all fascinated by John Kerry’s announcement that Israel and the Palestinians are back “around the table” I am not sure how hopeful I feel especially after reading Khaled Abu Toamehs distressing article on increasing belligerence in the PA  Extremism Escalating in the West Bank

Then there is the fact that in our research IMPACT-SE discovered that the schoolbooks of East Jerusalem are among the three least tolerant in the entire area, it causes me pause for thought but I am ever cautiously hopeful. There are three words for peace in Arabic although only one in English. First is Hudna or cease-fire; second is Salaam which is an extended cease-fire with condition that can be broken and then there is Sulcha which involves forgiveness and total peace. I want to know which level any agreement will achieve and does Mr Kerry understand the difference?

As I told you I didn’t cook for Shabbat because we were invited to spend Kabbalat Shabbat with the Maccabiah VIP’s at Beit Shmuel. The air was delightfully cool as I arrived together with our lovely friends Vivian and Paul Zimmet. Vivian and I picked a table and waited for Zvi and everyone else to come back from the Western Wall while Paul went out onto the veranda to see the incredible view of the Old City. Zvi walked everyone back from the Kotel through the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter to the Jaffa Gate regaling them with his deep knowledge of the long and much argued history of this fought over city.

A delightful man joined our table, a former Maccabi and Olympic world champion wrestler from Iran, called Solomon and his son. They were joined by another two couples and I began speaking to the ladies. For reasons that will become apparent they do not want to be identified, but I can tell you that they live in Los Angeles today. Their words were rivetting and their story almost untold, which is a shame because it is so relevant to today.

Their story was in stark contrast to our surroundings on this joyful Shabbat in Jerusalem with Yishai Lapidot of “Oif Simches” and three beautiful young singers who created a wonderful Shabbat atmosphere. I strained my ears to listen as the entire room was up dancing and singing around the tables with Yishai, and they began to reveal how they began a journey which took them from a good life in Iran to their connection with Israel and their new life in the USA.

Life in Iran was good, indeed more than good, financially sound, socially active and normal in every way, up until the last moments before the Shah was deposed, basically ousted by James Earl Carter. At first life continued as normal but when they travelled to see family and friends outside Iran, people who had easy access to news warned them to escape while they could.

In the meantime, here in Israel, Prime Minster Menachem Begin met with and spoke to eight leaders of the Iranian Jewish community headed by the Elder Iranian Jewish Statesman Habib Elkanian (Elghanian) warning them of the imminent rise of the Ayatollahs in Iran, trying to persuade them that the Jews have to leave Iran before it is too late.

Elkanian did not tell his community of Begin’s warnings, clearly believing the Israeli Prime Ministers warnings were exaggerated. Life continued in a normal fashion because they were unaware of the imminent danger. These ladies, like almost all the Iranian Jewish community, did not see the warning signs, the changes in attitudes and the more and more overt anti-Semitism, until it became so severe that they simply picked up their bags and children and fled – just a matter of two weeks between feeling safe and knowing they had to flee. The men stayed for a time, continuing their businesses but life became untenable and they followed their families, taking what they could with them.

Habib Elkanian, the Jewish leader who did not believe the danger, returned to Iran after Ayatolla Khoumanis return from exile and rise to power in order to rescue his son. The Iranians released his son who managed to escape but Elkanian himself was apprehended, charged with Zionism, tried and executed. It was the start of Iran’s financial downfall and of course the slippery slope to extreme, fanatic Islam and a danger to world peace.

Today, as successful business people who picked themselves up and succeeded in their adoptive homeland, they visit Israel often and go to Yad Vashem, to cry, to empathise, and to recognise that what happened to the Iranian Jews was too close for comfort and how lucky they are to have survived.

James Earl Carter unleashed world terrorism, fanatical hatred and imminent danger to the United States, Europe and all the free world.

Israel decided long ago that Jews would never be refugees, since they were coming home but now, in today’s changed and terrifying atmosphere we need to make sure that everyone knows the tragedy of the 900,000 Jews who left Arab and Islamic countries as refugees fleeing for their lives.

Here are some important sites explaining the history of the Jews of Iran