Israel´s Iranian Jews grapple with possible strike on their homeland (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) By Ben Lynfield TEL AVIV, ISRAEL 04/06/12)
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
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While he fears an Iranian bomb, a spice seller from Tehran vows that
Iranians love peace. One restaurant cook from Isfahan is baffled
by ´how things went so wrong.´
Amid the tense atmosphere between Israel and Iran this Passover
season, many of Israel´s 250,000 citizens of Iranian descent are
finding themselves in a complicated and uncomfortable position.
´´I am from Tehran, it is my hometown. I know the Iranians love
peace. But now I am afraid we won´t have another choice but to bomb
the nuclear installations in Iran,´´ says Zion Shimoni, who sells
spices – including Iranian black dried lemons brought through third
countries – in this Persian mini-enclave of Tel Aviv.
But he´s also pragmatic.
´´I know the Iranians are trying to get rid of Ahmadinejad but I
don´t think they will manage in time and an atomic bomb in the hands
of Ahmadinejad is a dangerous thing,´´ he adds.
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Indeed, Mr. Shimoni and his fellow Iranian-Israelis have broader
perspectives on a possible Israeli war with Iran than many of their
countrymen. They have tangible, positive memories of Iran and
Iranians and some also count relatives among the 20,000 Jews still
living in Iran who, some fear, could face reprisals if there is an
Israeli strike. Their views will not alter the current course of the
confrontation, but they do provide a glimmer of hope of an eventual
rapprochement in relations between the peoples of the two countries.
Molok Shamshiri, an Iranian-Israeli restaurant cook, recalls
relations with Muslims back in Iran as being ´´so good it is hard to
´´My Muslim neighbor would come make tea for me every Sabbath because
she knew I could not light the fire [due to an orthodox Jewish
prohibition],´´ says Ms. Shamshiri, a religious woman who covers her
hair for modesty. ´´The Muslims would help us with parties,
celebrations, weddings. They would help with everything and not for
money. They would always ask if we needed anything.´´
Shamshiri, who takes pride in her Ghormeh Sabzi, a famous herbal
soup, says: ´´It is hard for me to understand how things went so
wrong. But I am sure the Iranian people are still the same people.
Neither do the Iranian people want war. I know them.´´
After she left Iran, Shamshiri continued visiting frequently up until
the Islamic revolution of 1979 and also sent her children on visits
to get to know the old country. Her sister still lives there.
Her face lights up when she is asked where she is from.
´´Isfahan, a city that has everything good in this world. The four
seasons there are like clockwork. In the spring, you have the
sunshine, the chirping of the birds, and the flowers. It´s a calm
city, a paradise.´´
Clothing store owner Albert Moradian has feelings for Iran that are
perhaps even stronger. ´´To sum up in one word, I feel longing,´´ he
says, tears welling up in his eyes. Turning up a CD of Iranian
classical music singer Mohammed Shajarian, Mr. Moradian says: ´´I am
Iranian in my behavior, my accent, and the demands I make of my
children to respect everyone.´´
Mr. Moradian, who was a lieutenant in the Iranian army, left after
the revolution because he feared the new regime would take steps
against officers who served under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. ´´Of
course I have good memories. I think the Iranian people are a special
people, not of wars, but of music, poetry, and soul.´´ He says he
still visits Iran ´´through the Internet´´ and dreams of the day when
he can take his children there.
´´Unfortunately, the media here conveys a picture as if Iran is only
Ahmadinejad. The media is mobilized and I don´t believe any report
from it.´´ he says. Moradian is against Israel´s striking the nuclear
installations. He says that the Iranian people will eventually
overthrow the regime.
Some Iranian Israelis fear an Israeli strike will cause the Iranian
regime to retaliate against the Jewish community, one of the world´s
oldest. ´´This is an unstable and unpredictable regime that can
behave differently from day to day,´´ says Kamal Penhasi, editor of
Israel´s Farsi language newspaper Shahyad. ´´I can envision them
using criminals to attack Jews while denying the regime is involved.´´
But Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born specialist on Iran at the
Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, doubts there
would be a backlash against Iranian Jews.´´The Iranian regime always
tries to portray itself as anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish. Hurting
its own Jewish population would undermine that and be very
Mr. Javedanfar says that despite the regime´s demonization of Israel
since 1979, popular views of Israel in Iran are ´´far more positive
than any other country in the Middle East.´´ This, he says, could be
impacted by an Israeli strike.
At the restaurant, Shamshiri says she does not believe there will be
a war. ´´I hope we find a peaceful solution. The Muslims and we have
all grown up on the same food. At the end of the day, we know each
other well.´´ (© The Christian Science Monitor. 04/06/12)
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