Persian network shows Iranians another side of Israel

Produced by travel documentary filmmaker Human David Rawarpoor, the series, aims to educate Iranians about Israel by providing audiences a glimpse of Israel’s history, culture and food.

Rawarpoor stumbles upon a Persian-Israeli in a Tel viv flea market, where they exchange views on the current situation in Iran (photo credit: COURTESY OF HUMAN DAVID RAWARPOOR/INSTAGRAM/MANOTO)
Rawarpoor stumbles upon a Persian-Israeli in a Tel viv flea market, where they exchange views on the current situation in Iran
(photo credit: COURTESY OF HUMAN DAVID RAWARPOOR/INSTAGRAM/MANOTO)
A new travel documentary broadcast by Persian-language channel Manoto is changing how Iranians perceive Israel and the Persian community living there.  
Produced by travel documentary filmmaker Human David Rawarpoor, the series, which launched on June 17, aims to educate Iranians about Israel by providing audiences a glimpse of Israel’s history, culture and food.
Rawarpoor says that most Iranians are ill-informed about Israel because of the Islamic regime’s anti-Israel propaganda, which is why he sought to create a show that offers Iranians an inside look of everyday life in Israel.
“I thought to myself of all the places Iranians really don’t know much about, it is Israel. Despite hearing about the country every day, watching it on TV and walking over the Israeli flag in public spaces, Iranians in reality know little about Israel. I wanted to portray Israel because I wanted to show how important Persian-Israelis are to the Iranian diaspora and how they are preserving our Iranian culture abroad. I also wanted to share everything about Israel that the Islamic Republic has kept from Iranians for the past 40 years and I think portraying that will help people understand each other better,” said Rawarpoor.”
THE 22-part weekly series shot in December 2019 takes viewers on a journey through various cities and historical sites in Israel such as the Baha’i gardens in Haifa and Tel-Aviv-Jaffa’s shuk hapishpeshim (flea market). While walking the streets in Tel Aviv, Rawarpoor occasionally bumps into Persian-Israelis and strikes up a conversation in Farsi.  
“Having the opportunity to speak and communicate with people in my native language brings me comfort, because language isn’t just composed of words, it also provides a sense of the other person’s energy and I feel a deeper connection with them. This is especially true for Persian-Israelis who have lived in Israel for a long time and also enjoy speaking in their native language,” said Rawarpoor.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTARY filmmaker Human David Rawarpoor (center) enjoys a Persian meal prepared by Farzaneh Cohen of Persian ensemble Golha; discussion ensues on preserving classical Persian music in Israel. (Credit: Courtesy of Human David Rawarpoor/Instagram/Manoto)TRAVEL DOCUMENTARY filmmaker Human David Rawarpoor (center) enjoys a Persian meal prepared by Farzaneh Cohen of Persian ensemble Golha; discussion ensues on preserving classical Persian music in Israel. (Credit: Courtesy of Human David Rawarpoor/Instagram/Manoto)
Each episode introduces viewers to different Persian-Israelis who are conserving their culture and heritage, such as classical Persian Ensemble: Golha, founded by veteran santoor player Menashe Sasson and vocalist Farzaneh Cohen who perform and recite poetry by famous Persian poets such as Hafiz, Saadi and Rumi.
After meeting the guests inside their music shop in Tel Aviv, Rawarpoor joins Menashe and Farzaneh for Shabbat dinner. The evening includes a buffet of traditional Persian dishes and a performance by her daughter who plays the santoor.
In addition to revealing how Persian-Israelis are preserving their roots, Rawarpoor’s documentary also exposes the community’s nostalgia for Iran. During his visit to Kibbutz Alumim, for example, he befriends a pair of elderly Persian-Israeli men who recount memories of their hometown in Iran and how they met. The men’s longing for Iran is common among many older Persian-Israelis, Rawarpoor relates.
“One of the differences I have noticed between Iranians living in Europe and in Israel is how much Persian-Israelis miss Iran. I have never experienced anything quite like it, where I am speaking with someone in Farsi and they start to cry when I mention Iran. Most of them say they would like to visit their home country one last time before they die, even if for only a week.”
In creating the documentary, he refrained from highlighting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because he says it is an issue that is already widely discussed and is one of many ways the Islamic regime uses propaganda to skew Iranians’ perceptions of Israel. 
“I am very happy that I was able to create a documentary about Israel without taking sides. I normally don’t get into politics and wanted to highlight Israel’s culture, history and Persian-Israelis narratives and I think the less people take sides the more authentic it will be for audiences,” he said.
Rawarpoor believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not black and white and Israel’s origins and Zionism should be evaluated from a historical perspective.
“We shouldn’t say that in 1948 Israelis took over the country and ousted the Palestinians. We should instead examine Israeli’s origins from more than 100 years ago or 200 years ago to have a better understanding of the country.”
THE FILMMAKER sips tea and speaks with another Persian-Israeli about his life in Iran before immigrating to Kibbutz Alumim. (Credit: Courtesy of Human David Rawarpoor/Instagram/Manoto)THE FILMMAKER sips tea and speaks with another Persian-Israeli about his life in Iran before immigrating to Kibbutz Alumim. (Credit: Courtesy of Human David Rawarpoor/Instagram/Manoto)
SINCE THE series debut, he says he has received mostly positive feedback from Persian-Israelis and Iranians living in Iran.
“So many of my viewers tell me that they didn’t know so many Iranians are living in Israel and thank me for introducing them to the country and what is taking place there. I have had so many followers reach out to me on Instagram and say that this could be a way to bring people from two different countries together and promote peace.”
He believes his determination to portray Israel and Persian-Israelis truthfully is what has led to the series success.
“I wanted to show that 50% of Haifa’s university’s student body is Arab; I wanted to show the Iranian population in Israel and their strong affinity toward their culture; I wanted to show how Iranians are continuing to preserve their heritage by playing traditional Iranian instruments. People in Iran are unaware of this segment of the diaspora and how they are striving to maintain their roots, which is why I think we should remember that we are all part of the human race and that Israel and Iran could be close allies despite Iran’s animosity toward Israel.”
Manoto is an independent London-based free-to-air Persian- and English-language general entertainment channel whose programming includes documentaries, films, news and more. Its broadcast area includes Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, and it is estimated that it is watched by at least a third of all households in Iran.