Monday, July 17, 2006

An early look at Irani-Israeli Relations

The Iranian Version:

am Kurash, Cyrus, King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babilani, King of Kiengir and Akkade, King of the four rims of the earth, of a family which always exercised kingship....

When I entered Babilani as a friend and when I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, induced the magnanimous inhabitants of Babilani to love me, and I was daily endeavoring to worship him....

As to the region from as far as Assura and Susa, Akkade, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which used to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned them to their habitations.

Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Kiengir and Akkade whom Nabonidus had brought into Babilani to the anger of the lord of the gods, unharmed, in their former temples, the places which make them happy.

The Jewish Version, from the Book of Ezra:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying:

1 1,2
'Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

1 1,3 Whosoever there is among you of all His people--his God be with him--let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD, the God of Israel, He is tht God who is in Jerusalem.

1 1,6 And all they that were round about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.

And that is the story of Cyrus, King of Persia, liberator of the Jews. Some of you may be wondering why I point this out. I do so because if you've ever met an Iranian you may know that they have a history of which they are proud and a memory of Irani-Jewish relations that stretches from the time of Reza Shah to Shahs past -- as far back as Cyrus.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, you will find far more instances of anti-semitism in Anglo-European and Arabic cultures than in any Persian stories, history books or otherwise. In fact, Iran is home to the largest number of Jews in the Middle East, outside of Israel.

The time of anti-semitism in Iran largely came with the revolution. Given the lengthy histories of both cultures I think it's important to keep in mind that this is a relatively new development.
I've been hearing a lot of tough-talk on the radio and reading it in the newspapers, and I find it irritating that the vast history of these two nations is often neglected. I believe this is an important aspect of the current situation in Iran because it is yet another issue that separates the Irani government from the Irani people. And in a bad way, that's a good thing.


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