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Arash Abaie - Visit to the Tehran Synagogue

by Aron Trauring last modified 2005-04-12 10:22 PM
NGF Alumni - This Month's Fellow


President Khatami visits the main synagogue in Teheran on Ilanot (Tu B'shvat)

Arash Abaie
, Tehran, Iran, April 2004

Arash Abaie is the Cultural Affairs Director of the Teheran Jewish Committee and editor-in-chief of the Jewish magazine, Ofegh-Bina. He is also a teacher, lecturer and communal leader. Arash was a Fellow at the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship XIII (Glamsta, 2003).

The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hojat-ol-eslam Seyed Mohammad Khatami, visited Yousefabad Synagogue on Feb.8, 2003 . Hakham Yousef Hamadani Cohen, the chief Rabbi of Iran, different Jewish authorities and clergymen as well as state authorities were also present.

In his welcoming address, Haroun Yashayaei, Chairman of Tehran Jewish Committee, congratulated Iran on the 25th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, expressed his sympathy with those who had suffered from the Bam Earthquake and drew attention to the help given by Jews in Iran and abroad. Mr. Yashayaei referred to the historical coexistence of Jews and Iranians, highlighting in particular the important role played in the last 25 years through religious and cultural dialogue. In his closing remarks, President Khatami called for tolerance and the separation of Zionism from Judaism.

After the performance of songs in Persian and Hebrew, Morris Motamed Eng., Iranian representative to the Islamic Consultative Assembly, welcomed the President and the other guests. He spoke warmly of the special relationship between Iran and its Jewish population, drawing attention to the positive role played by the President. In particular he noted the cancellation of the Sapir Hospital’s debts to the Social Security Organization, and the easing of travel restrictions for Jewish Iranians visiting overseas. Motamed also expressed the Jewish community’s great appreciation for the release of prisoners from Shiraz thanks to President Khatami’s efforts.

President Khatami began his speech by quoting a sentence attributed to Moses in the Quran: “O God! Open my heart, ease my tasks and remove my burden." He noted the commonality of issues facing all people, across religious boundaries. He called for co-operation and mutual understanding,referring, by way of example, to 1st-century Jewish philosopher Philo(who bridged eastern and western philosophy) and 13th-century Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas.

Seyed Mohammad Khatami referred to the role of Jews in promoting science and culture across the world, and their contributions to scholarship. He drew attention to Jewish-Muslim cooperation in Iran, noting cooperation of all Iranian citizens as an important element for Iranian unification. Iranian Jews, he noted, live near Islamic religious centers, a continuation of a pattern of co-existence and synergy that stretches back 2700 years. He also drew attention to the contributions of such early Iranian Jewish poets as Shahin, Emrani, and Khajeh Bokharaei.

President Khatami refered to the historical oppression of Jews, pointing out that anti Semitism, fascism and the Holocaust were western phenomena. He then returned to the theme of commonality by drawing a parallel between the festivals of Ilanot and Norouz; both have the theme of rebirth and change, the one permanent thing in this world, as the famous Muslim philosopher Sadr-ol-Mote’alehin once remarked.

President Khatami concluded by condemning terrorism, violence and intolerance carried out in the name of religion, especially in Palestine. The central message of all religions their prophets is peace, prosperity and the wiping out of ignorance, and we must all strive for peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Palestine.

This meeting ended with the opening the heichal (Torah scroll ark) and the reciting of prayers (led by Rabbi Hakham Yousef Hamadani Cohen) for the Iranian leaders and nation.

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