Iranian Jews in Israel not optimistic

"The regime will survive because it's using religion," Persian expat in J'lem tells 'The Jerusalem Post.'

June 18, 2009 01:23
2 minute read.
Iranian Jews in Israel not optimistic

iranian jew aj 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )


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The international excitement over the tech-savvy anti-Ahmadinejad rallies that are shaking Teheran has seemingly skipped over the Iranian Jewish community in Israel. Their interpretations of the unrest's significance range from the first stirrings of democracy to gullible youngsters driven to riot in a cynical ploy by members of the regime itself. Young or old, veteran Israeli or relative newcomer, they are generally pessimistic about Iran's future and the chances for real change in the Islamic republic. And the Jews still in Iran? They Jews are fine, they say, as long as they stay out of trouble. "Everything will be back to normal in a week, and the regime will be identical no matter which candidate is president," says Shmuel, a young Iranian-born owner of a shoe store on the capital's Jaffa Road. "These are stupid youngsters - the students are usually the dumbest," laughs Avraham Zakaim as he offers Persian tea in an Iranian Judaica and art store on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall on Wednesday. "[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei chose four dictators for the people to choose from. What's the difference between the four candidates?" asks Zakaim in heavily accented Hebrew. His Farsi is more fluent than his Hebrew, he is an active observer of affairs and keeps a Farsi-language journal on Israeli and Jerusalem politics under the counter in the store. "The regime will survive because it's using religion," he says, "and religion is a rising force everywhere in the world." Shoshana, a religious woman who runs a Judaica shop in downtown Jerusalem, is the only one to challenge the perception that losing candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi may mark a departure from the aggressive leadership style of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who unabashedly calls for Israel's destruction and actively denies the Holocaust. While Ahmadinejad is "the second Hitler," she says, "Mousavi is more democratic." "The people of Iran are suffering water and power outages because everything is spent on weapons for destroying Israel. Mousavi is no Zionist," she admits, but his basic "concern for the people" means "he won't invest the whole country in destroying Israel." Aharon Yunanyan, a 70-year-old electronics store owner, seemed to be the only optimist. "With God's help, this is the start of the revolution that will bring back the shah, or even democracy. I studied Persian history in school in Iran. Historically, every 35 years Persians change their regime. This regime's time is up," he says. As for the remaining Jews in Iran, all agreed they were not in danger as long as they kept a low profile. "The Jews are mostly merchants who stay out of politics. They won't be affected by the rioting," says Yunanyan. Zakaim agrees. "The heads of the community know not to push their noses into politics, so they stay safe." Nissan Saghaian, a friend of Zakaim's who makes the Persian tea, is quick to complain about "the constant talking, the Jewish Agency, the newspapers, about the Iranian Jews. It only does damage to talk about it all the time. Make sure to write that." Shmuel concurs. "If the Israelis don't make trouble for the regime, it will be okay with the Jews."

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