Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just as the Persians did not succeed in killing the Jews in antiquity, neither will the Iranians succeed today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night before the reading of the megila (The Book of Esther) in the central synagogue in Caesarea.
Before the traditional reading, Netanyahu, surrounded by his security detail and little children in costume, turned to the children and said: “What is the holiday about, what do we celebrate, what do we remember, what did they try to do to us then?” “Kill us,” a number of the children replied.
“Where?” Netanyahu asked.
“In Persia,” they answered.
“Did they succeed? the prime minister asked.
“No,” one child said, “the opposite happened.”
“It didn’t happen,” Netanyahu echoed, “the opposite happened. Also, today they want to destroy us from Persia; they will not succeed.”
The congregation applauded, and Netanyahu went to sit down next to his son Avner to hear the reading.
Netanyahu has often channeled the Purim story when discussing the Iranian threat. For instance, on Thursday in Moscow, at a joint photo opportunity with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu used Putin’s greetings for a happy Purim as a peg to blast Tehran.
“I thank you for your good wishes on Purim,” the prime minister said. “Some 2,500 years ago in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jews, which did not succeed, and which we commemorate with this holiday.”
Today, Netanyahu said, Iran – the heir of the Persians – has similar designs: to wipe out the state of the Jews. “They say this clearly, and it is etched on their ballistic missiles,” he said.
He also drew a similar analogy in March 2015, during his speech to a special joint session of the US Congress against the Iranian nuclear deal that infuriated then-president Barack Obama.
“We’re an ancient people,” he said. “In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies. The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.”
He went on to say that today the Jewish people are facing another attempt by yet another Persian potentate – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei – to destroy it.
“But I can guarantee you this,” he continued in that speech, “the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies – those days are over.”