It was almost the beginning of this year. Second quarter had already started for us college students and it was my first time taking chemistry. It was a big class with lots of people, most of them who were all freshmen starting as premeds and dropping out of class the second week after realizing all the work load that came with chemistry. The class was good although at first intimidating. I did not know anybody in the class and was eager to meet more people, so I could start studying with them.
Although in a big class, it was still quite easy for me to pick out some Persian faces in the class. You walk in class and you see someone with the Persian face and you wonder if they are Persian or not but you don’t really realize until they look back at you with that Persian “Hey, I know you’re Persian too” look.
In the first week I ended up picking up one of these faces. It was a guy, somewhat cute which I was quite sure was Persian. I did not know if he ever noticed me or not. But I could pretty much say he was Persian with that dark, olive skin, thick eyebrows, and a little gesture.
To my luck I finally ended up meeting a girl, ‘Ann’ in my small chemistry section. She was from the same town as me and she went to the same high school as me, so I was excited that I finally met someone I could study with. To my surprise, very soon I ended up befriending couple of other girls in that class and soon we were all hanging out and going to the study room together.
The funny thing was that these girls all ended up knowing the mystery guy in that class, “The Persian Potential” as me and Ann call it. Although everyday after class we would all end up talking outside of class I never talked to this guy, though he was friends with my other friends. I was still curious to know who he was and what he was.
So finally one day I asked my friend Ann, “What is this guy’s nationality?” because his name definitely did not sound Persian to me. My friend said she did not know either, but she knew that he was Jewish and that he lived in a Jewish fraternity. I was finally relieved that all the suspicions were gone, and concluded that he was NOT Persian.
I thought that perhaps because he has some Jewish background he just looked a little like us. But for some reason every time I saw him after class he would still keep giving me that Persian smile. I guess it is just something that we Persians just pick up, and I was sure I knew the kind of smile that a Persian guy gives to a Persian girl. But we had never even talked except the whole “hi” and “bye” thing.
Couple of weeks passed by until one day I was in Ann’s room trying to download this Persian song from the internet. Then, I got an IM message from her AOL Messenger. I did not know who it was from, probably one of Ann’s friends. So I just started talking to this stranger, whom I did not know.
When Ann saw me talking to him, she told me that it was the Jewish guy from the chem. class. Ann being a typical American did not know much about the other countries and it took her a while to finally understand where Iran was, so she never knew where this guy was from. She just joked around and told me, “He's from the Jewish land.”
Knowing that I was on the other side of the Internet talking to this mystery guy, I was excited to finally talk to him. He did not know I was on the other side of the computer, thinking that he was talking to Ann. I finally blurred out the question, “Are you Persian?” Knowing that he was definitely NOT Persian, just a Jewish guy, I was surprised to get the message, “Yes I am Persian.”
I thought he was definitely kidding. So I started saying some words in Persian to see if he knew them. And yes, he could say some little words like “salaam” or “Haaleh shomaa chetoreh.” This was getting really exiting and weird for me. I wondered, he could not possibly be lying. By now he already knew that it was not Ann who was talking to him and that it was me, so the phone starting ringing and it was him, and Ann had to tell him that I was the one talking to him online.
I was surprised to know that this whole time he knew I was Persian although my name did not completely sound Persian and could have been basically been from any country. Being excited that he was a Jewish and half Persian I realized that his real home country was in Israel. Although eager to hear the story of his dad leaving Iran at a young age, he did not want to continue the sad story of his family’s immigration to Israel much. So we left our conversation at that point and I told him that I had never met a Jewish Persian before.
When I went home I thought about him a little, I knew that he definitely did not still fit within the Persian category, or the Persian crowd at school. It really broke my heart when he told me that when he told the Persians that he was Jewish, he was faced with weird looks and ignorance. I do not really know if what he said was true or not, but I was definitely excited to have met a Jewish Persian for the first time. Coming from a small town I had barely met any Persians let alone a minority Jewish Persian.
I asked him if he ever wanted to go back to Iran or his dad ever missed Iran. I was surprised to get an indifferent response that his real home was in Israel not in Iran. Although this meeting took place at the beginning of the year, we ended up talking to each other and ended up being in the chemistry class again this quarter.
When I saw him at a party one night, he came up to me and told me something that really hurt me. He said the reason he never told me at first that he was Persian was that he thought I would hate him. He said that if I would have found out he was Jewish I would have hated him because I was technically a Muslim.
Although I was mad at him for thinking such a thing I was so upset to think that there is such thinking in the world. I assured him that religion did not matter to me at all, realizing all the wars that are going on in the world over religion. I just wished that all the religious differences would have been gone, that all of us Iranians would be united regardless of that. That it did not matter if we were Jewish, Muslim, Bahai or Christian but the fact that we all came from one root, from Persia made me want to love them. I just wish that more Iranians would have realized that.
I do still pray for a day that everyone can live in Iran where the home is not where you are persecuted for you religion. So if you are an Iranian anywhere in the world, I love you and I am united with you and if you are different from me you are still a Persian and you make the name of ‘Iran’ beautiful.