Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Post #179 - May G-d protect both my houses....

Reporting for NPR, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro wrote about how "Jews With Ties To Iran And Israel Feel Conflicted" (February 7, 2012; excerpts):

Vahid Salemi/AP
Iranian Jews look at the Torah scroll during a morning service for Shabbat, on the Jewish festival of Passover, at the Pol-e-Choubi Synagogue, in Tehran, Iran, April 23, 2011. Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel. Growing conflict between the two countries is affecting Iranian Jews in both places...There are some 250,000 people of Persian descent living in Israel, and they maintain strong ties with their homeland [and probably 25,000 Jews in Iran, AP].  As a result, they are uniquely conflicted over the possibility of war between the two countries.

In a small cluttered apartment in Jerusalem, Naheet Yacoubi cooks a traditional Persian meal for her Shabbat dinner. Originally from Tehran, she came to Israel when she was a child....

Despite the enmity between the two countries, the two communities are close, says Aaron Yacoubi, Naheet's husband. We can call them directly and they can call us, he says, noting that family members actually come and visit.

Iranian Jews travel to Israel via Turkey. The Israeli Embassy gives them special documents to be able to enter the country undetected by the Iranian authorities.

Aaron says his cousin came from Tehran just two months ago. Unfortunately, he says, they can't travel to Iran because they have only Israeli passports. Aaron says he is proud of his Persian ancestry, yet he's also loyal to the Jewish state. But he says lately because of the tension with Iran he feels conflicted over what could happen next.

A Jewish-American visiting a Tehran synagogue

There are fears that Israel could strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel says Tehran wants to develop nuclear weapons. Iran maintains its nuclear program has only civilian uses. There have been four rounds of U.N. sanctions against Iran as well as harsher measures taken by the U.S. and the European Union. Aaron says it's all taking its toll. He says he feels terrible for the people in Iran, where life is getting difficult...

On a recent day, he calls his cousins in Iran to see how they are. Speaking in Farsi [Persian], his relatives there tell him that they want to sell their house but can't, the currency is devaluing, it's a struggle to make ends meet. Tears rolls down Aaron's face as he hears their news. After he hangs up, Aaron says that he feels that it's not right to hurt the people. He says something should be done to hurt the Iranian government instead. Those mixed feelings are pervasive among the Iranian Jewish community.

Meir Javadanfar is an Iran analyst of Iranian descent who lives in Tel Aviv and has written extensively on Iran-Israel relations. "It's not easy not to get emotional when talking about Iran and Israel, especially for people like me who've lived in Iran and in Israel," Javadanfar says. "The Iranian people don't want another war. They are a great people and they want to live in peace. It's just their leadership that's aggressive, not them," Javandanfar says. "And it hurts me to see how [the] people of Israel are being threatened by a regime which has called their country a virus, a cancer. I don't want to see them get hurt either, so it's a very difficult ... scenario for Iranians."

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