An Iranian embassy in Jerusalem?

Thirty-six years after Tehran’s official outpost in Israel was shuttered, a new one emerges – an art collective, complete with a radio station.

An art collective, Iranian embassy in Jerusalem (photo credit: MICHAEL GAERTNER)
An art collective, Iranian embassy in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MICHAEL GAERTNER)
In my email inbox innocently sat an invitation to an event titled, “Iranian Embassy in Jerusalem.”
It naturally made very curious, as Tehran cut off diplomatic and business relations with Jerusalem upon 1979’s Islamic Revolution. (To this day, Iran does not recognize Israel.) It turned out that on December 21, the Hamabul Art Collective would be presenting its new project, the (unofficial) “Iranian Embassy,” opening its doors in the French Hill neighborhood.
“The Iranian Embassy is an embassy of people and culture,” the collective detailed.
Several signs showed visitors the way to the project on 4 Golei Kenya Street. As I approached the building, there were two large flags hanging outside: Israeli on the right and Iranian on the left. Dozens of people were chatting and taking selfies under the flags.
Three rooms comprised the embassy. One room was full of paintings, photographs and other artistic media. In the middle there was a Persian carpet, again with the flags of Israel and Iran above it. Beside every artwork were the email addresses of the artists. In a corner one could have tea and coffee, along with traditional Iranian sweets, nuts and raisins.
Hebrew and Persian were heard, with snippets of English as well.
Another room offered varied scenes of Iranian life, such as families eating together, a fashion show and the production of kanafeh, a sweet treat.
Still another room housed a radio station manned by Roni Amrani of Radio Ran, an Iranian- language station broadcasting from Israel.
“I have been doing this for over seven years, broadcasting programs and music from Israel all over the world,” he said.
“We open bridges to Iranian people. I get a lot of phone calls from people saying, ‘We love Israel. When we talk together there will be peace.’” After several hundred guests arrived, organizer Matan Pinkas opened the event. Soon after singer Janet Rotstein-Yehudayan, who was born in Tehran and immigrated to Israel alone at the age of 14, performed several numbers to loud applause. Singer Dalia Pajand then joined her on stage and the two women put on a wonderful duet.
Later the band Za’afran (“saffron”), took the stage with Pajand on vocals, Yaara Beeri playing kamanche, Meron Gelbard on zarb and Adi Forti on santur.
Pajand, who lived in Isfahan and fled the country in the mid-1980s, told In Jerusalem: “I hope that soon, there will be a true Iranian embassy in Jerusalem. Though I do not think it will happen in the near future, I would like to have another evening like this soon.”