(CNN) — The saber-rattling between Iran and Israel conjures fears of mass casualties and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Israel has threatened to attack Iran to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and has threatened to strike first against enemies who threaten its national interests.
The tough talk makes it easy to forget that Israel and Iran have not always been enemies. The Jews of Israel and Persians of Iran have had a rich and nuanced relationship dating back thousands of years.
They have enjoyed an “overwhelmingly positive connection” for centuries, said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.”
In fact, Israeli Jews grow up reading a Bible story about the Persian leader Cyrus the Great, who is said to have liberated Jews and allowed them to return from exile to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, said David Menashri, an Israeli expert on Israeli-Iranian relations.