Iranian Jewish women speak out against the Islamic Republic: “Why we support Israel”

While the Iranian regime frequently tries to portray to the outside world that their local Jewish community supports their position on the State of Israel, testimonies from Iranian Jewish female dissidents demonstrate that the Iranian regime is not painting an accurate picture regarding Iranian Jewry: “I believe that all Jews are connected to Israel.”
Photo Credit: Screenshot from Women on the Frontline

The Iranian regime frequently tries to portray to the outside world that their local Jewish community supports their position on the State of Israel. However, in reality, the local Jewish community has been coerced into supporting anti-Israel positions by the regime. Famous Iranian Jewish writer Roya Hakakian wrote the following in the New York Times regarding the predicament faced by Jews within the Islamic Republic of Iran: “From early adolescence, at the start of Iran’s 1979 revolution, my loyalties have so often been questioned that I’ve come to think of such suspicions as my Iranian-Jewish inheritance.”

“In the early 1980s in Tehran, a small group of socialist intellectuals who clandestinely gathered in an apartment every Thursday evening let me into their circle,” she related. “Those were dangerous years. The government was new to power and violently insecure. Opposition groups were under assault. A war was raging with Iraq and the United States had imposed sanctions. Our days were spent in queues, as the most basic staples were rationed." 

“Every member of the group was assigned to follow one of these pressing issues,” Hakakian wrote. “I, however, was to give weekly updates on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though much younger than the rest, I knew exactly what kind of sympathies I was expected to express. The land had to be returned to the Palestinians, I would declare at the conclusion of each summary. I never mentioned that among the Jews living on that land were my penniless relatives who moved to Israel from Iran after their home and store were torched by an angry mob during the mayhem that preceded the revolution.”

According to Hakakian, “Silence and submissiveness were and are the cornerstones of the character of the Iranian Jew. We walked past and away from confrontation. We burrowed in oblivion while living alongside Muslim friends and neighbors. Security and success came to those who blended in best, to those who did not allow any part of their Jewish identity to bleed into the Iranian.”

However, numerous Iranian Jewish female dissidents related in interviews with JerusalemOnline that even though the Iranian regime tries to portray the contrary, there are many Iranian Jews who support Israel and most of those who do not don’t hold these positions on their own accord but rather are forced by the larger society into making anti-Israel statements. As dissident Shayan Zahrai related: “It is no secret that the Jewish people have many enemies who try to delegitimize their claim to the land of Israel. These enemies tell many lies to try to accomplish this goal. I believe that it is very important to combat these lies by presenting the truth.  Every Jewish person should feel an obligation to do so.”

In order to portray the true sentiment of Iranian Jewish women, JerusalemOnline interviewed 3 Iranian Jewish female dissidents who shared what they think about Israel and offered a glimpse into Iranian Jewish life. An anonymous Iranian Jewish female dissident who does not want to be identified due to the fear that publicly stating support for Israel could undermine her work told JerusalemOnline: “Growing up in pre-revolutionary Iran, two things mattered to our identity: the authority of a single religious establishment which by American standards would fall under the Orthodox category and a spiritual connection to the State of Israel.   Every Shabbat, my grandmother who would cover her hair with a scarf prayed for each family member and then she would pray for peace in Israel and the safety of its young protectors.  Our holiday prayers always included prayers for Israel and a heartfelt longing to be in Israel. Our love for Israel was ingrained in our religious beliefs and practiced daily.”

She related that she has lived in 3 countries.  In some of them, people considered her to be the foreign Iranian. In other countries, she was the Jew. But in Israel, she “felt a connection to peoplehood. I felt an instant sense of belonging and kinship which I had never experienced in the 3 countries in which I had previously lived.   Since my political awareness, I have developed a new appreciation for Israel. Israel is the only real democracy in the region, ensuring stability in a tumultuous Middle East. Israel is the only hope for countering extremism in the region particularly from the Islamic Republic. As a secular nation, Israel is a model for separating religion and state while preserving the values of both. Ultimately, Israel is the only Jewish homeland for the Jewish people in the world. No matter where we have been persecuted, we are assured that we can return to our safe homeland where our Jewish identity is not a vulnerability but a communal backbone.”

Iranian Jewish female dissident Minoo Moghini concurred: “I love Israel. It is the most democratic country in the world. I wish that Iranians would one day realize that Israel is not their enemy. I believe that all Jews are connected to Israel and should play a role in helping her to succeed. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and it is one that grants freedom to all citizens, regardless what their background and religion are.”

Dr. Sima Goel, another Iranian Jewish female dissident, proclaimed that of course she supports Israel: “Supporting Israel is logical, rational and moral. It makes me terribly sad to think that we still need to justify our support. No one questions whether America or Brazil or the Republic of Botswana has the right to exist or whether it should exist. But here we are, well into the third millennium and we still must publically declare our support for the Jewish homeland.”

“I support the State of Israel because I support the Jewish state and the state of all Jews,” Dr. Goel proclaimed. “We have a right to exist, to flourish and thrive, both in the country of Israel and outside of it. We are the Jewish people, connected by faith, culture and DNA, and the country of Israel is our homeland. As Jews, we know we belong to the Jewish state and that it will welcome and shelter us should we choose to return there.”

According to Dr. Goel, the fact that she was born as an Iranian Jew greatly influenced her views on Israel: “I experienced what it means to be rejected because of ethnicity and extremist rule. While I grew up in a rigid, narrow society, I was considered second-class both because of my ethnicity and gender. Israelis are encouraged to be open and egalitarian. For close to 70 years, Israel has worked to create a society where men and women live as equals, where people are free to express themselves in terms of sexual orientation or intellectual or spiritual belief.”

“In Iran until the present day, Jews are treated as second-class citizens, stripped away of many rights, ones we used to enjoy,” Dr. Goel noted. “When I was forced to flee Iran in the 1980’s, as I recount in my memoir Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, some of my fondest memories then and still today were associated with my Jewish faith. Until this day, my mother reciting the blessing over the Shabbat candles and my father blessing the wine remain engraved in my mind. On Passover, my grandfather, who had travelled to the Holy Land after the Yom Kippur war, would tell us stories about his time in our newly established land. He beamed of pride as he spoke about our homeland. For many Iranian Jews, Israel has remained a beacon of hope when times get tough.”     

“I support Israel because she struggles to balance the world of the Bible with the modern world,” she declared. “It is a place where every group of two people express three points of view, where debate and argument flourish and the voices are loud and clear.  Israel is the first to send aid when natural disasters assail a nation. She leads in research and education. Her army defends her borders yet she offers the olive branch to those who call for her destruction.   Israel leads in water preservation, solar research and aeronautical research. Her entrepreneurs are among the best in the world because they know how to maximize minimal resources.”  

“Of course I support Israel,” Dr. Goel concluded. “I don’t question that I breathe, that gravity exists, that the light from the stars originates from celestial bodies millions of light years away. I know that these things are facts, self-evident and true. I support Israel for the same reasons. It is factually, truthfully and self-evident that Israel is a modern country with ancient roots. She was founded on democratic principles and has a population that enjoys a high standard of living, where equality is the norm.”

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