Salome Worch was
born in Iran, grew up and spent most of her adult life there. The daughter of a
Jewish mother and a Muslim father, she was registered as a Muslim in Iran’s
records. Gradually, she grew more interested in her Jewish heritage, and in 2005
eventually immigrated to Israel, where she works in catering.
my maiden name because my brother is still in Iran and I wouldn’t want to put
him in any danger,” she warned The Media Line.
Worch says she is deeply
skeptical that the election of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani heralds any
change in Iran’s policies.
“I wouldn’t trust him -- he’s just another
Mullah,” she said, referring to the Iranian clerics who are in charge of Iran’s
policies. “I wouldn’t trust him at all.”
She said that the men running
Iran are the same faces as when she was a student in the 1980s.
faces I see now were young Islamic students in the 1980s,” she said. “I don’t
seem them as the opposition, and I don’t see them as a breath of
She agreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
description of Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and says she rarely
reads the Iranian papers.
“I will only read the news when they say the
Islamic government fell and it has been replaced with a secular government,”
There are an estimated 50,000 Iranian-born Jews in Israel and
about 90,000 “second-generation” Iranian-Israelis. Some immigrated in the 1950s
after the creation of the state of Israel. Others left after the Islamic
Revolution overthrew the Shah, Iran’s last secular monarch, in 1979. According
to the Jewish community in Tehran, there are currently 25,000 to 35,000 Jews
still in Iran, although the official census lists fewer than 10,000.
of the Iranian Jews in Israel are deeply skeptical of their governments. Panteh,
a young mother and yoga teacher who asked me not to use her last name out of
fear of the Iranian government, grew up in Los Angeles, where the second-largest
community of Iranian Jews after Israel is located. She says she believes that
despite official denials, Iran is continuing to pursue a nuclear
“It serves all of their interests in both the Arab countries
surrounding them, and Iran’s goals for global conquest in the world at large,”
If Panteh represents the younger generation, the older
generation is even more critical of the current Iranian
“Rouhani is worse than Ahmadinejad,” Ruth Or, 77, who left
Iran at age 17, told The Media Line, describing Rouhani’s predecessor who
repeatedly denied that the Holocaust had happened. “Ahmadinajad was not smart,
but Rouhani is smart -- he knows how to speak.”
When it comes to policy,
however, she said, there’s no difference at all.
Even those Iranian Jews
who are critical of the regime say they miss many things about Iran, including
its physical beauty.
“I see myself as having two homelands,” Hanna
Jahanforooz, a musician living near Tel Aviv told The Media Line. “Maybe I’m
idealizing Iran, but the country of my native language remains deep in my
Jahanforooz, who left Iran at age 12, speaks to her young
daughter in Farsi, and has been involved in collaborative projects with Iranian
musicians who live abroad.
She remains deeply critical of the current
regime and skeptical about Rouhani.
“It’s the same policy -- there’s no
change,” she said. “He is a different politician and his PR apparatus works
well. He knows how to sell himself.”
She says she will only believe in
progress when Iran addresses women’s rights.
“I will see a change when
they stop hanging women and stoning them, when the 40 percent unemployment among
women declines, when the percentage of aids and drug addicts goes down and when
they stop killing homosexuals,” she said.
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