Sunday, February 12, 2006

Esthers Children


The Middle East is a complex web of complex relationships woven be a very long common history.

And this most certainly applies to the relationship between Israel and Persia. Or - since it predates the state of Israel with thousands of years - the relationship between Jews and Persia.

The Jewish community in Iran today seems to number around 25 000 people, and it has the distinction of being the Jewish community with the longest history of any in the world.

It traces its origins back to the day in 359 BC when the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. Some - but certainly not the majority - went back to the land that had been theirs, but most remained elsewhere, and evidently a sizeable portion ended up in Persia itself.

They are called Esthers children after the biblical figure of that name. She evidently enchancted one of the Emperors of Persia in the one way or the other.

There is thus a history of more close to 3000 years of Judeo-Persian living together, that has also produced a very rich cultural heritage of different sorts.

Things have evidently been less easy since the 1979 Islamic revolution, although there have been noticeable examples of cooperation. It should be remembered that it was the Hawk anti-aircraft missiles of the Israeli inventory that ended up with the Iranian armed forces during the Iran-Iraq war, and there was evidently a fair amount if intelligence cooperation between Teheran and Tel Aviv at the time as well.

The webs go deep. The present President of Iran and Defence Minister of Israel were born in the same city in Iran. The present Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces is also coming from Iran. And historically, there has been a deep bond created not only be the long historical legacy of living together but also a common mistrust of their Arab neighbour, more apparant in the days of Saddam Hussein than now.

Historically, I think we will see this relationship coming back, as we will a closer relationship between Iran and the West. It will take its time - and we can only fear what m
In the meantime, it does not hurt to be aware of some of the deeper currents of history.

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