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Book review: History of Iranian Jews



Levy, Habib (1896-1984), Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora, abridged and edited from the 3-volume 1960 Persian version by Hooshang Ebrami, translated into English by George W. Maschke, Mazda Publishers, 264 pp., 2005. [ISBN 1-56859-086-5]


In this review/summary/analysis, I have tried to give the reader a sense of the book''s content and how it relates to other sources on the subject. The review is much longer than my usual ones, primarily because the subject matter is of immense interest to me.


I started reading thebook, which covers the history of Iranian Jews up to and including the Pahlavi era, with the aim of learning about where Iranian Jews came from and how/when they settled in Kurdistan, the land of my ancestors. I also wanted to discover the root causes of anti-Semitism in Iran. The recent history of Iranian Jews during the Qajars and Pahlavis, where historical documents are abundant and thus the events are less open to speculation, wasn’t of as much interest to me. Therefore, I read the second half of the book, covering the latter eras, much less carefully.


Other than the book under review, sources for exploring the history of Jews in Iran are quite limited. One such source, which also cites other sources, is Wikipedia’s “History of the Jews in Iran”:


Among useful pieces of information provided by this article are estimates of the number of Jews in Iran at various times. For example, a 2012 census indicated a population of less than 9000, down from more than 100,000 in the late 1940s and 80,000 in the late 1970s, just before the Islamic Revolution.


Anti-Semitism in Iran has had its ups and downs, with periods of ethnic cleansing at one extreme and tolerance (particularly over the last century) at the other, but deep down, anti-Semitic feelings persist in a vast majority of Iranian Muslims. For example, over my own lifetime, educated Muslims have been outwardly tolerant of, and even cordial toward, Jews. But in private, where Jews are absent or unrecognized, many behave quite differently. In Iran, the politically correct terms for a Jew are “Kalimi” and “Yahudi,” but “Johud” is used to denigrate Jews (the latter, which came to be used during Shah Abbas II’s reign, is to the former as “nigger” is to “negro” and “African-American” in the US). Many Iranians use the politically correct terms in public, but switch to the denigrating term in private, particularly when telling jokes about Jews.


As a believer in the power of graphical aids in all fields of human communication, I was very disappointed with the total absence of maps and timelines in this book. The 16 pages of images, inserted between pages 348 and 349, are inadequate for a book of this size and scope, especially since most of them are inconsequential photos of individuals and social groups.


Thus, to make things clearer for myself and for the readers of this review, I have put together the accompanying diagram that shows the geographic distribution of the Israelites, my ancient ancestors of some 3100 years ago, alongside a timeline that I have constructed from the book under review and some external sources. Please bear in mind that dates associated with ancient history are approximate, as various sources tend to disagree. I tried to reconcile the dates on the timeline with The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, a book about which I posted a review in late March 2013, but there were a number of irreconcilable differences; I chose to use dates from the current book in such cases.


Let’s start at the very beginning, when Israelites settled in the Holy Land (today’s Israel). The Israelites, who entered Egypt some 3500 years ago and were delivered by Moses in 1280 BCE, were descendants of Abraham, who was born near Basra 3600 years ago and migrated to Canaan at age 75. Abraham had 8 sons and a daughter, Dinah. His first son, Ishmael, was from Hagar; his second son, Isaac, was from Sarah; the other 6 sons were from Keturah. Isaac had 2 sons with Rebekah: Esau and Jacob. The Israelites were in Egypt for 210 years (some accounts, that appear less reasonable, indicate 430 years by adding the lifespans of Jacob’s son Levi, his son Kohath, his son Amram, and Moses, but this does not account for overlap between generations).


The 12 sons of Jacob, nicknamed “Children of Israel,” are said to have been patriarchs of tribes which were distributed in today’s Israel/Palestine according to the map. In actuality, it seems, the 12 tribes were not led by the 12 sons of Jacob, but by 10 of his sons and two of his grandsons whom he adopted as his own. Ten of these tribes, residing in the northern region of the Holy Land, later became known as the “lost tribes,” when they disappeared from the face of the earth around 720 BCE. Two of the tribes residing in the southern Judea region were captured and taken to Babylon. Babylon, the former hub of Judaism, was a province of Persia for more than 1000 years.


The 10 lost tribes were captured by the Assyrians and were taken, or were forced to go, to Samaria, Aleppo, Ninevah, Kurdistan, Azarbayjan, then to Gilan, Mazandaran, Gorgan, and Khorasan. The Judah and Benjamin tribes were captured by Babylonians and were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, Elam, Shush, Stakhr, and Pasargadae, and later to Yazd, Kerman, Kashan, and Isfahan, and points further north and west. A traveler’s account around 1165 CE notes that Jews of Kurdistan and Azerbaijan speak the Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler who visited Kurdistan in 1170, found more than 100 Jewish communities. Many Afghan Muslims are from the tribes of Israel who settled in the area during the reign of Cambyses and later converted to Islam.


The accounts in the preceding paragraphs provide some clues as to the origins of Kurdish Jews, but details are somewhat at odds with the information in Wikipedia’s “History of Jews in Kurdistan”:


The latter associates Kurdish Jews with the tribe of Benjamin. According to Wikipedia, genetic studies have shown that Kurdish Jews and Kurdish Muslims have common ancestors, which may indicate significant religious conversions in one or the other direction. Kurdish Jews, now mostly relocated to Israel, spoke a dialect of Aramaic that was at one time prevalent in today’s Middle East region and subsequently influenced Arabic.


The history of Iranian Jews during the Achaemenids is better documented than the periods before and immediately after, thanks in part to the account in the Old Testament and partly owing to extensive archeological discoveries from the period. Prophet Daniel’s role during the Mede’s rule (he is buried in Iran), Cyrus the Great’s liberation of Jews from Babylon, rebuilding of the Second Temple, and the story of Queen Esther (also buried in Iran, alongside her uncle Mordecai) are well-known.


According to Chapter 6, Iranian Jews lived in obscurity for 5.5 centuries, spanning the Greek rule and 470 years of Parthians. When Alexander destroyed Persepolis in 330 BC, the area’s Jewish inhabitants fled to nearby cities, possibly settling in Shiraz and Lar. Macedonians ruled both Judea and Iran; at that time, Jews adopted a new calendar, known as the Shetarot (covenant), whose starting point was 331 BCE, the year the Seleucus’ rule was firmly established. Under the Greek rule, Jews of Judea were divided into two factions: most of the well-to-do supported the Greek culture, which was violently opposed by the Hasidim.


With the fall of Judea, many Jews migrated toward Arabia, settling in an area that later became Medina. Iran’s western border during the Parthian period was the Euphrates River, making Iran and Judea not very far from each other. Many of the western provinces of Iran had large Jewish populations. In Mesopotamia and Babylon, there were regions were the entire population was Jewish. During this period, Iranian Jews constituted a council that was recognized by the Iranian state. The Jews had some level of autonomy in their affairs. A leader known as “resh galuta” (head of Jewish affairs) presided over the Jewish-Iranian community.


With the end of Arsacid dynasty, the Jews also abandoned their struggle for independence and freedom. During the reign of Anushirwan (531-579 CE), who was a fanatic Zoroastrian, some religious minorities, particularly the Mazdakites, were persecuted. During the Sasanid dynasty (400+ years), the Jews lost the broad freedoms they had enjoyed in the past. In 456, a decree was issued to ban the observance of Sabbath. A list of Jewish community leaders during the Sasanian period, from 210 to 520 CE (15-16 leaders, with average tenure of about 20 years) is provided on p. 131. The peak of the Sasanid persecution of the Jews occurred during the reign of Peroz (457-483). As Jews of Mesopotamia fled to Arabia, Jews of Eastern Iran fled to India and some went as far as China.


In 614 CE, Jerusalem was freed from the grip of the Byzantines by Iran. Later, Arabs ruled both Iran and Judea, so, in a sense Iran and Judea were part of the same empire. Early during the Islamic period, Zoroastrians mistreated Jews, because they considered followers of Muhammad and Moses of the same creed; so, when Muslims mistreated them, they retaliated against the weaker Jews. When Imam Ali conquered the city of Peroz Shapur, local Jews greeted him in drones. Ali accepted the Jewish community leader position and preserved it. During the Islamic caliphate, Jews pursued trades such as weaving, dye casting, goldsmithing, pharmacy, shopkeeping, and trading in spices and antiques. Continual reinstatements of dress codes for the Jews are indications that the codes were not uniformly enforced.


During the first six centuries of the Islamic Iran, the country’s Jews expanded eastward. There were significant populations of Jews in Nishapur, Balkh, Kabul, Sistan, Marv, Samarqand and Bokhara, stretching as far as China. The supremacy of Arabs over Iran lasted about two centuries. Afterwards, Iran was divided into 3 parts: One part was ruled by the caliphs of Baghdad, another by independence-seekers, and a third part by Iranian patriots. Khorasan and other eastern parts of the country remained beyond the Arab influence. From the advent of Islam in Iran, Jews were caught in the middle. They were required to pay jizya (an exorbitant annual poll tax) to Islamic rulers and whatever rebel group happened to be in their area also forced them to pay large sums of money for protection.


The Mongols were a brutal bunch, but I was surprised to find out that before attacking Iran, Genghis Khan sent a 100-person commercial and political delegation to Iran’s Sultan. The entire delegation was massacred before reaching the Sultan’s court, as was a group sent later to investigate the incident. These events enraged the Mongol Khan, and he unleashed his rage on Iran. Genghis died in 1227, leaving Iran in disarray for several decades. Genghis’ grandson Hulagu Khan attacked Iran in 1256, seizing land as far as Baghdad.


During the rule of the Seljuqs, religious tolerance came to an end in Iran and regulations, similar to those previously instituted by Umar, were put in place for non-Muslims. The restrictions and the extent of their enforcement evolved over time, but they included bans on praying aloud or living in houses that are higher than those of Muslims, and requirements for special clothing and footwear. Many members of religious minorities converted to Islam during this period to escape denigration and persecution. In 1026, wine taverns were closed, an action that would be repeated some two centuries later, causing Hafez to write: “They shut the doors of the tavern—God be not pleased / For they shall open the doors of the house of falsehood and hypocricy.”


درِ میخانه ببستند خدایا مپسند  /  که درِ خانه ی تزویر و ریا بگشایند


The vizier Nezam al-Mulk, in his book Siyasatnameh (“Book of Politics”), wrote that non-Muslims should not be appointed to state offices, although he maintained cordial relations with some Jewish financiers. Property confiscation from Jews was widely practiced during this period, causing Iran’s Jewish population to further decline due to migration and conversion. A prominent Jewish merchant, Banu Sahl al-Tustari, who migrated to Egypt during this period, attained high office there and became highly influential in the Egyptian government.


The Crusades took place from 1095 to 1270, devastating Iran and other lands in today’s Middle East. A false messiah appeared and became very influential in Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. Some of his followers remained loyal to him even after his death. A novel based on these real-life events was published by Benjamin Disraeli in the 1830s.


Traveler Benjamin of Tudela provides much information about Iranian Jews, including estimates of their numbers in Hamadan (30K), Shiraz (10K), Tabaristan (4K), Ghaznin (80K), Isfahan (15K), Amadiayah (25K), Susa (7K), and Samarqand (50K). For Azerbaijan and Rudbar, his estimates are in terms of communities (100 and 4, respectively), rather than numbers. Another Jewish traveler, Petahiah ben Joseph ha-Lavan, gave an estimate of 1.2M for the total number of Jews. Even if not quite accurate, these large numbers indicate that from that day until Iran of the Pahlavi era, many Jews must have fled Iran or converted to Islam to escape mistreatment. In addition, many Iranian Jews were killed in the east by the Crusaders and in the west by the Mongols.


At times during Iran’s history, such as during the Ilkhanid period, Jews rose to high offices. One well-known Jew of this period was the Judeo-Persian poet Shahin who put the Torah and Jewish tradition into verse in the style of classical Persian poets. The Safavid era (1501-1722) brought with it a revival of the arts and great achievements in architecture, but it also opened the country’s doors to European spies and intensified anti-Semitism, which climaxed amid religious wars among Sunnis and Shi’is, as well as among Muslims and non-Muslims.


Persecution occurred in some very weird combinations: Priests called Muslims and Jews infidels, while Mullahs in Spain declared Jews and Christians infidels. Ottomans killed Shi’is and Christians, but protected the Jews (the Ottoman Empire was one of the few remaining safe havens for European Jews); Iranians killed Sunnis and Jews, but not Christians. Anti-Semitic ideas were spread by European spies in Iran. The colonial powers of Europe also fueled the Shi’i-Sunni conflict, which occupied the Sunni Ottomans with the Shi’i Iran, preventing them from harboring expansionist thoughts toward Europe. The Ottoman, who initially protected Jews, eventually started to kill them.


Many Jews in Iran led dual religious lives, praying as Muslims in public and following Jewish traditions in private. Lack of leadership due to the Iranian Jews being cut off from their religious center in Baghdad contributed to the problems. The Safavid had a special bureau, Administration for Taxes on Non-Muslims, and other tools to coerce Jews into spying on their communities for the government. All these difficulties led to mass migration of Jews eastward and westward.


It is interesting, and disheartening, that the clearest descriptions of religious rituals (as well as social traditions) in the Middle East come from travelers, rather than local writers. One such traveler wrote about the king participating in Ashura ceremonies to make a public showing of his piety, and then holding private drinking parties with beautiful female dancers. Music was totally banned during the last years of the Safavid era.


Shah Abbas delegated domestic policy to Shi’i clerics and foreign policy to European agents, especially the Sherley brothers. He wanted to eliminate all Jews but the Shi’i clerics opposed this idea, convincing him to instead sign a 70-year contract with the Jews, compelling them to convert to Islam if the messiah did not appear during this time. Jews, who saw this contract as their only hope for survival, accepted. Sure enough, at the end of the 70-year period, a false messiah appeared, claiming to be the son of Solomon, who ruled the lost tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Mannaseh in the wilderness of Khabur. Desperate Jews embraced the messiah. He amassed such a large following that the Ottomans felt threatened, arrested him, and forced him to convert to Islam. This turn of events left the Jews heartbroken and drove them toward mass conversion to Islam to save their lives.


Anti-Semitism climaxed in Iran during the reign of Shah Abbas II. The mullahs were always busy devising regulations and restrictions against Jews. A list of 45 such restrictions, on pp. 293-295, shows the depth of anti-Semitism. Some of the most demeaning (not necessarily the most serious) examples include: (#3) The oath of a Jew is not admissible in court; (#10) Jews may not wear matching shoes; (#15) If a Muslim curses a Jew, the Jew must remain silent and bow his head; (#25) Jews may not buy fresh fruits; (#45) Jews must bow their heads when addressing Muslims. Safavid era anti-Semitism was so strong that it persisted even after that dynasty’s end.


Baba’i ibn Lutf was a Jewish poet who wrote in Persian verse, transcribed in Hebrew alphabet. He wrote about lives of Iranian Jews during the Safavid era, including their sufferings, forced conversions, and dual existence—living outwardly as Muslims and privately as practicing Jews. A grandson of Baba’i Lutf also versified the plight of Iranian Jews.


There were quite a few vengeful mullahs who wanted to make Jews suffer above and beyond the official Safavid policies. Jews on occasion went to government officials or the king himself to complain about their treatment by local mullahs, but they were often ridiculed or given the run-around. On the positive side for Jews, a few provincial rulers refused to enforce some of the more absurd restrictions in appearance and clothing, but they still favored distinguishing Jews from Muslims in some way. Shah Abbas II traveled to Kashan in 1659, where he lusted for a Jewish boy whom he saw briefly before the boy disappeared. The king’s men set out to find the boy, but to no avail, as his family hid him from sight. As a result, the king intensified his persecution of the Jews in Kashan, putting 150 to death in a single day. The boy was eventually found, and Shah Abbas II left Kashan with him.


The end of Safavid dynasty is often taken to be 1736; 1722 was the end of the reign of Shah Sultan Husayn. The four centuries since then have been tainted by many of the same policies that remain in tacit existence, even though they are no longer on the books. Nader Shah’s reign eased anti-Semitism to some extent, so that some Jews who had fled into mountains dared to return to their hometowns.


The Qajar’s rule constitutes one the darkest periods of Iranian history. Agha Muhammad Khan blinded tens of thousands, allowed his soldiers to rape women, and even killed or blinded some members of his own family. Shameful treaties were signed that gave away land and treasures to foreigners, especially Russia. Iran effectively became a colony, operated by Russia from the north and the British from the south. The kings, meanwhile, indulged themselves, while letting foreigners run the country. Fath Ali Shah had 157 wives. Clerics had unchecked powers, remnants of which allowed them to seize power after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The appearance of a Shiraz youth toward the end of the reign of Muhammad Shah caused quite a stir. The youth later became known as the “Bab” (literally “the gateway” to the Rightful Commander) who later founded the Baha’i faith. The Bab was initially arrested and exiled, and was eventually executed, after which his brothers took his place.


Late during the Qajar rule, what started as a revolt against giving the British the rights to cultivate and market tobacco in Iran turned into a full-blown Constitutional Revolution, with the constitutionalism decree issued by Muzaffar al-Din Shah in 1906.


During the Qajar period, clerics were again given free reign over domestic affairs, leading among other things to a renewal of anti-Semitism. Some forcefully converted Jewish groups, who had gone back to Judaism during the Afsharid dynasty, were forced to undergo a second wave of conversions. Late in the reign of Nasser al-Din Shah, however, European Jewish organizations intervened on behalf of Iranian Jews, leading to cosmetic improvements in their lives. During the reign of Fath Ali Shah, the pressures on, and mistreatment of, Jews reached inhumane levels, with Jewish women routinely violated and Jewish residences pillaged. Fath Ali Shah, meanwhile, selected attractive Jewish maidens and boys for his seraglio. Nasekh al-Tavarikh supplied the names of no fewer than 8 Jewish wives. Despite closing their eyes to the persecution of Jews, the Qajars did use the skills of Iranian and European Jews, who served as court physicians and musicians.


Other than mandatory conversions to Islam, there was one incentive that caused voluntary conversions: Eligibility to inherit the wealth of close and distant relatives. To escape persecution, many Jews converted to the Bha’i faith, a branch of Islam that purportedly showed respect for minority rights. During periods of greater religious extremism, when Muslims wouldn’t dare play music for fear of repercussions from the mullahs, Iranian Jews played a big part in preserving the country’s classical music.


Ephraim Neumark provided estimates of Iranian Jewish populations around 1883. According to him, there were around 6000 Jews in Tehran, 5000 in Shiraz, 2400 in Mashhad, 250 in Kermanshah, and 80 in Borujerd. He named other Iranian cities with Jewish communities, without referring to their populations. Based on these figures, it is unlikely that there were more than 50,000 Jews in Iran, about the same number as in the latter years of the Pahlavi dynasty. It is indeed a sad indication of Iran’s backwardness that we have had to rely on observations by foreign travelers to learn about our own historical facts.


Tabrizi Jews were massacred in the late 1820s. At the start of the Qajar period, an estimated 7000 Jews lived in Tabriz. A number of Christians and Muslims conspired against Jews by killing the child of a Muslim religious scholar and hiding his corpse in the house of a successful Jewish merchant, with help from one of his Christian employees. As a rule, when a Jew committed an offense, all Jews were accused of wrongdoing and suffered punishment. As rumors of the Jew’s crime spread, mobs set out to kill all Jews, with the massacre later spreading to other cities in Azerbaijan. Similar events would later take place in Mashhad and Tehran, with the latter incited by fabric merchants connected to Qajar royalty who did not want competition from many Jews who had chosen to trade in fabrics.


Jews of Tehran, like other cities, lived in a ghetto in cramped and unsanitary conditions, with water delivered to them only once every 6 months. Jews endured these awful living conditions, and the insults hurled at them by Muslims surrounding their ghetto, by resorting to their faith and sense of community. Riots against, and massacres of, Jews continued in many cities throughout the Qajar period.


Jews in Iran were in decline as European Jews prospered following the French Revolution. Establishment of the Universal Israelite Alliance (known briefly as “Alliance,” and pronounced in French by Iranians) raised hopes for Iranian Jews and provided them with practical assistance in various domains. For example, Alliance schools were built in Iran (first one opening in Tehran in 1898) and Qajar kings, who were under the influence of their European advisors, were persuaded to protect Iranian Jews, but the kings had little sway over the anti-Semite mullahs.


Bigotry and anti-Semitism in Iran formed one of the major discussion foci of the Alliance in Europe. They brought up these matters with Nasir al-Din Shah during his visit to Paris and via a continuous stream of correspondence later on. The same topics were discussed with the king during his London visit. To ensure that the king would not renege on his promises to protect Jews, and to inform Iranian Jews of their rights, the Alliance published all its correspondence with Iranian authorities and distributed them (with Hebrew translation for those who did not read English or French) among Iranian Jews.


The Anglo-Persian agreement of 1919 placed all military and financial affairs of the country under the control of British advisors. In a 1921 coup, Reza Khan seized the command of the armed forces. In 1925, Ahmad Shah was deposed and was replaced by Reza Shah, who ruled Iran until 1941. He sidelined the clerics and allied with Germany during WW II. When Reza Shah refused a proposal to build a north-south railroad to help the allies, the British and Russians attacked Iran and deposed him in 1941, replacing him with his young son Mohammad Reza, who ruled until 1979.


Official persecution of Jews stopped during the Pahlavi dynasty, even during the final years of Reza Shah, when his German advisors exerted a great deal of influence in Iran. However, roots of anti-Semitism were too strong to die out. So, Jews continued to suffer in the hands of anti-constitutional clerics and their thugs/mobs.


When Jews were given the chance of having a representative in the parliament, they failed to elect leaders who would work to improve their condition, opting instead for conservative yes-men, who did not believe in rocking the boat. Enemies of constitutionalism portrayed the liberation movement and the secular justice system as a plot by Jews and Bha’is.


The embattled Jews of Shiraz came very close to being completely wiped out, but intervention by Alliance officials saved them. In those days, anyone could accuse a Jewish man of having relations with a Muslim woman, thus getting him killed, his relatives abused, and his house looted, all without a need for any proof. This was a common way of blackmailing Jews. With the slightest excuse, the mullahs called for riots against Jews in Tabriz, Tehran, and other cities, killing many and plundering their houses and shops. According to the author, many of the riots against the Jews were incited by European agents to scare off American investors, by portraying Iran as highly uncivilized and unsafe.


In 1895, mass immigration of Iranian Jews to Jerusalem began. In the 20th century, Iranian Jews continued their immigration to the Holy Land in large numbers, particularly after the establishment of the state of Israel.


The history and troubles of Kurdish Jews were of particular interest to me, given that my ancestors lived in Kurdistan. An anti-Semitic attack in 1950 killed a dozen Jews in Kurdistan. The government was quick in quelling the disturbance and in helping Jews to move to Tehran or immigrate to Israel. The group included a number of farmers, who are considered the last Iranian Jews to be employed in agriculture.


Even though Jews of Iran faced many common problems, they were also disunited on the question of leadership and on whether Jews should try to influence national politics. Involvement in politics was against the tradition of cautious conservatism. Several Jewish representatives to the parliament kept being elected term after term, despite being highly ineffective in performing their function.


Chapter 30 about two opposing community leaders, Shemuel Haim and Loghman Nehurai, is too detailed, describing every disagreement and name-calling. There is no overall analysis of the underlying causes, although the reader gathers that this was a left-versus-right dispute. Perhaps one reason for the distracting details is the author’s personal involvement in this part of the history, which makes some of the assertions a tad suspicious.


Because Reza Shah sidelined the clerics who incited ignorant masses, the status of Iranian Jews generally improved during the Pahlavi era, although sporadic incidents persisted. Given their suffering prior to the Pahlavi dynasty, Jews remained loyal to Reza Shah and his son, which increased the suspicion and distrust of the religious masses in the period leading to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Shortly after the rise of Hitler to power, the newspaper Kushesh published anti-Semitic articles that blamed Jews for all economic and social ills in the country. These articles, published on September 4 and 5, 1933, marked the beginning of a destructive propaganda against Jews.


When Hitler’s forces pushed into southern Russia, a number of Jewish children were rescued and brought to Tehran (the so-called “Chidren of Tehran”) for eventual resettlement in the Holy Land. This episode might be viewed as an omen of the future relationship between Iran and Israel, beginning in the 1960s.


Educational and other opportunities increased for Jews after the end of WW II, but their disunity persisted, causing many of their common problems to remain unsolved.


Iran began diplomatic relations with Israel in 1950, but in 1951, Mosaddegh, who was seeking Arab support for his nationalization of the oil industry, recalled Iran’s representative. The support did not materialize and later Egypt began an anti-Iranian campaign in the Persian Gulf. Finally, in 1960, Iran’s king recognized Israel and affirmed its right to existence, infuriating Egypt and other Arab countries. Economic cooperation as well as cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries ensued.


Jews began leaving Iran en mass in the years leading to the Islamic Revolution and for several years afterwards. Currently, it is estimated that fewer than 9000 Jews live in Iran, predominantly in Tehran, but also in Isfahan, Shiraz, and a few other cities. Iranian Jews have been scattered all around the world, with a great majority residing in Israel and United States.


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In my final post on this article, I thank all those who commented. As I am writing this note, the review has garnered 3883 views, 58 comments, 33 Facebook shares, and 3 tweets. As usual for this site, we see a mix of comments by those who try to enlighten and add to the discourse, alongside hateful/irrelevant musings. The latter group, perhaps unknowingly, confirm some of the points made in the book and my review of it. Two useful sources mentioned in the new comments are Iran Nameh and Iran Shenasi, whose links I have included below. The latter has an article entitled “Judeo-Persian Communities of Iran” (see the third link).


iraj khan Peace Is The Way

I started to read the above article but soon I was presented by mythology as historical facts, the article states:

"Let’s start at the very beginning, when Israelites settled in the Holy Land (today’s Israel). The Israelites, who entered Egypt some 3500 years ago and were delivered by Moses in 1280 BCE, were descendants of Abraham, who was born near Basra 3600 years ago and migrated to Canaan at age 75. Abraham had 8 sons..etc."

I lost interest right then, but I did glance over the article and did read some of the atrocities committed against Jews. But it also made me think:

"Jews of Israel are committing the same crimes against the Native Palestinians. They killed the natives, destroyed their houses, pushed them out of their land and into concentration camps."
Why don't they stop making illegal settlements on native Palestinians land by pushing them out?
Why are Israelis keeping tens of thousands Palestinians in their notorious prisons for political reason, many under the age of 18 and as young as 12 years old?
Why are they starving the Palestinian refugees in Gaza whose towns and villages were occupied by the Israelis and they were driven away from their homes?

Jews of Israel and their supporters are not doing any better than those who they are complaining about.


dohelzen منم آن مست دهلزن که شدم مست به میدان دهل خویش چو پرچم به سر نیزه ببستم

Jewish cannibalism



Corrected comment (sorry for the errors in the original): Thanks for the additional comments and replies to comments on this third day of my post. Two items particularly interested me and I will certainly pursue them in the near future. One is Zendanian’s reference (citing a Wikipedia article) to the 13th Tribe, a name for Khazar converts to Judaism, and the other is maghshoosh’s citation of the book Jadid al-Islam, about the forced mass conversion of Mashhadi Jews in the 1800s.



Thanks for the additional comments and replies to comments on this third day of my post. Two items particularly interested me and I will certainly pursue them in the near future. One is Zendanian’s reference (citing a Wikipedia article) to the 13th Tribe, a name for Khazar converts to Judaism, citing a Wikipedia article, and the other is maghshoosh’s citation of the book Jadid al-Islam, about the forced mass conversion of Mashhadi Jews in the 1800s.]


dohelzen منم آن مست دهلزن که شدم مست به میدان دهل خویش چو پرچم به سر نیزه ببستم

To qualify my first post about Jewish cannibalism, please consider this:

Canaanites are in Canaan.

نام شهری است که مسکن یعقوب و مولد یوسف (ع ) بوده است .(برهان ) (آنندراج ). نام شهری که یعقوب در آن مسکن داشت . (ناظم الاطباء). زمین کنعان زمینی است که ذریه ٔ کنعان در آنجا سکونت گزیدند. حد آن از جانب شمال از طریق حماة به شمال لبنان و از سوی مشرق دشت سوریه و دشت العرب به طرف جنوب ، ولی از سوی مغرب تماماً به ساحل دریای متوسط امتداد نمی یافت چه هنوز مردم فلسطین در آن باقی بودند (سفر پیدایش 10:15) (کتاب صفنیا 2:5) و پس از آنکه بنی اسرائیل اراضی کنعان را تسخیر کردند نام کنعان به زمین اسرائیل (اول سموئیل 13:19) وزمین مقدس (کتاب زکریا 2:12) و زمین موعود (رساله ٔ عبرانیان 11:9) و زمین عبرانیان (پیدایش 40:15) مبدل گردید

The type of human sacrifice involving the eating of the slaughtered
human victims derived its name from the combined names of his uncle, Canaan, and the demon god Baal, the two names being combined to form the word "cannibal."



cannibal (n.) "human that eats human flesh," 1550s, from Spanish canibal, caribal "a savage, cannibal," from Caniba, Christopher Columbus' rendition of the Caribs' name for themselves (see Caribbean). The natives were believed to be anthropophagites. Columbus, seeking evidence that he was in Asia, thought the name meant the natives were subjects of the Great Khan. Shakespeare's Caliban (in "The Tempest") is from a version of this word, with -n- and -l- interchanged, found in Hakluyt's "Voyages" (1599). The Spanish word had reached French by 1515. Used of animals from 1796. An Old English word for "cannibal" was selfæta.


Zendanian An injury to one is an injury to all.

Thanks for explaining the etymological roots of the word. Concerning Shakespeare's play "Tempest," & his depiction of Caliban there have been a number of critical studies. A while back (almost 20 years ago) I read a book published by Minnesota University Press, a translation from a Cuban scholar, which was a critique of "Tempest." Let's see if I could find it online! Cheers



You are very welcome. Clearly I can't take credit for it as it is a cut and paste from a site which, in my humble opinion and dohelzen notwithstanding, is the most reliable source of etymology online. I have the link sited in my comment. Insofar as the Tempest goes, I am afraid that even after more than 70 years on this earth I still haven't developed a taste for The Bard, which, naturally, speaks to my lack of refined intellect.


Zendanian An injury to one is an injury to all.

Well, you know I meant thanks for posting the info in here.
I actually found that book I mentioned (along with tons of articles on criticism of Shakespeare's depiction of natives in "Tempest.")

Caliban and Other Essays
Author: Roberto Fernández Retamar
"Retamr finds the literary and historic origins of Caliban in Columbus’s Navigation Log Books, wher the Carib Indian becomes a cannibal, a bestial human being situated on the margins of civilization. The concept traveled from Montaigne to Shakespeare, on down to Ernest Renan and, in the twentieth century, to Aimé Césaire and other writers who consciously worked with or against the vivid symbolic figures of Prospero, Calivan, and Ariel. Retamar draws especially upon the life and work of José Marti, who died in 1895 in Cuba’s revolutionary struggle against Spain; Marti’s Calibanesque vision of “our America” and its distinctive mestizo culture-Indian, African, and European-is an animating force in this essay and throughout the book."


dohelzen منم آن مست دهلزن که شدم مست به میدان دهل خویش چو پرچم به سر نیزه ببستم

For more expert details please see the source bellow:
Canaanite, Khazar and Edomite are all names that accurately refer to the majority of people who call themselves "Jews."
The word "cannibalism" comes from Canaan and the demon god Baal. Eustace Mullins, The Curse of Canaan p. 12 (1987)
Biblically, Canaanites are identified in Genesis as descendants of Canaan, a son of Ham and grandson of Noah.
The Canaanites originated the practices of demon-worship, occult rites, child sacrifice and cannibalism. Eustace Mullins, The Curse of Canaan p. 8 (1987). They sacrificed children to Molech (a Semitic god). Mike Warnke, Schemes of Satan p. 29 (1991). In Palestine numerous bodies of children were discovered in the foundations of buildings proving without doubt that oblations of this character were common among Canaanites to strengthen the walls of homes and cities. Edwin O. James, Sacrifice and Sacrament, p. 94 (1962). The priests of the Canaanites, to control the populace, claimed that the first-born children were to be sacrificed to their demon gods (Isaiah 57:3-5). They practiced their horrible rites in "groves" or "shrines" where they could "murder children without being seen and punished by the descendents of Shem" Eustace Mullins, The Curse of Canaan, p. 24 (1987).



Eustace Mullins? Really? A man who could be a perfect guest candidate for the Jerry Springer Show is your esteemed academic source? I suppose The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are, according to you and the magnificent Eustace, incontrovertible historical documents? Do you realize that by siting Mullins you through away any pretense of credibility? Mind you, I am not a Jew (had I been one I would probably by now have a couple of Nobel Prizes and a Field's Prize tucked away in my briefcase. Sigh, life is sooooooo unfair!)



"To qualify my first post about Jewish ..." You certainly don't need to "qualify" any of your writings, as your qualifications shine through brilliantly.


dohelzen منم آن مست دهلزن که شدم مست به میدان دهل خویش چو پرچم به سر نیزه ببستم

There is Baal in evry jew



Thanks for the additional comments (and replies to comments) on this second day of my post. I take this opportunity to point out that history is biased, depending on who tells it. In a wonderful book I am reading now ("Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math," by Daniel Tammet), the author observes: "As a Briton who lives in France, I see how each nation selects its own causes, and edits them convincingly into its own version of history. In Britain, Napoleon's name is synonymous with tyranny and a small comic man's delusions of grandeur. In France, au contraire, he is a revolutionary who stood up for the new Republic against the hostile monarchies of Europe. The puffed-up Napoleon with 'small white hands,' as depicted by Tolstoy, is, of course, a Napoleon from the Russian perspective."


Ali Mostofi Astrology, Current Affairs. Princeton Class of 1981. member since 2005

The Jews come from Throne of Solomon in Iran. They are part of the migration of humans in the Iranian plateau 20,000 years ago out of Africa.


Zendanian An injury to one is an injury to all.

Ali jan so according to you the tribes known as Jews were originally in Horn of Africa, then they migrated eastward to the Iranian plateau, but they really didn't like it there, so they went back to Africa & became slaves in Egypt, until Moses set them free.
What do you think about Arthur Koestler's theories about the lost tribe of Israel & the kingdom of Khazar?


Zendanian An injury to one is an injury to all.

I was specifically asking you about the book "The Thirteenth Tribe," by Arthur Koestler. This book has also been translated into Persian & back in the 80's there was a bit of debate about it in Iranian book reviews of that time.

The Thirteenth Tribe

In the book, Koestler advances the thesis that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people originating in and populating an empire north of and between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Koestler's hypothesis is that the Khazars – who converted to Judaism in the 8th century – migrated westwards into current Eastern Europe (primarily Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Hungary and Germany) in the 12th and 13th centuries when the Khazar Empire was collapsing.



Israeli historian Shlomo Sand advances a similar view of the origin of the Ashkenazim in his "The Invention of the Jewish People":
This view of the origin of the European Jewry has also been propagated in the Iranian state media, which has portrayed Ashkenazi Jews as descendants of the "uncivilized" Khazars, as opposed to Iranian Jews, who are descendants of the holy Moses. However, some recent results dispute the Khazar origin, and suggest Western & Central Europe as the maternal origin of Eastern European Jewry:
But, as the latter article suggests, these studies are not conclusive.


Zendanian An injury to one is an injury to all.

حبیب القانیان

حبیب اِلقانیان (۱۲۸۸-۱۳۵۸) معروف به حاج حبیب الله القانیان رییس انجمن کلیمیان تهران و سرمایه دار بزرگ یهودی ایرانی بود.

القانیان یکی از نخستین غیر نظامیان و نخستین یهودی اعدامی پس از انقلاب بود. دولت اسلامی نخست درخواست خویشان القانیان برای تحویل جسد وی را برای خاکسپاری رد کرد. با میانجی‌گری خاخام یدیدیا شوفط و سایر رهبران جامعهٔ کلیمی تهران دولت اجازهٔ دفن وی را در انتها داد.

وی در دفاعیات خود گفت «اینجانب حبیب القانیان، افتخار می‌کنم کلیمی ایرانی هستم... تا به حال هیچ گونه کمک و یا اعانه به نفع اسرائیل نداده و نخواهم داد. من موافق کشتار مردم فلسطین نیستم... افتخار می‌کنم دارای سهمی از کارخانجات پلاسکو ملامین، پلاستیک شمال، لوله شمال و کارخانه یخچال جنرال الکتریک و پروفیل آلومینیوم می‌باشم.» وی همچنین تاکید کرد هیچ دارایی به نام او در اسراییل وجود ندارد. او در وصیت نامه اش از وراثش درخواست کرد که به حسابهایش رسیدگی کنند و بدهکاریهایش را به افراد مربوط پرداخت کنند و حقوق عقب افتاده کارمندانش را به آنان بدهند. او ضمن خداحافظی از خانواده‌اش از آن‌ها خواست که یک سال برایش دعا کنند.

یک سرگذشت
آقای حبیب القانیان

اعدام القانیان نقطه عطفی برای ایران بود
شهرزاد القانیان نوه حبیب القانیان، بازرگان ایرانی یهودی که پس از انقلاب اسلامی اعدام شد، می گوید آن واقعه موجب شد بازرگانان از ایران فرار کنند و شانس کشور برای ساختن یک اقتصاد مدرن، متنوع، و استوار بر صادرات از بین برود.