Before there was the antisemitic regime of the mad mullahs in Iran, before the rule of the antisemitic Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his even more antisemitic predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini, before there were the antisemitic presidents of Iran Ebrahim Raisi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before the hanging Judge Khalkhali sentenced the leader of Iran’s Jewish community, Habib Elganian, to be executed, there was quite a different Iran, where tens of thousands of Jews lived peacefully and prosperously under the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
Now his son has just visited Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, to visit Yad Vashem and to share with the Jews of Israel the sorrow and the pity. He came to promise, as the representative of the “other Iran” that is fighting the regime, that when the Islamic Republic falls, the people of Iran will slough off the antisemitism that has been encouraged from the top, and Israel and Iran will return to their former state – one of peace and friendship. More on his now-completed visit to the Jewish state can be found here: “‘Our nations can live in peace,’ son of Iran’s Shah says in Israel visit,” by Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, April 17, 2023:
“Israel and Iran can have a prosperous future,” said Reza Pahlavi — the son of the deposed Iranian Shah —as he and his wife Yakima made their first-ever visit to Israel on Monday night.
“We are very happy to be here and are dedicated to working toward the peaceful [and] prosperous future that the people of our region deserve,” he tweeted on landing in Ben-Gurion Airport where he was greeted by Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, who had arranged his visit.
“From the children of Cyrus, to the children of Israel, we will build this future together, in friendship,” Pahlavi tweeted.
Reza Pahlavi’s reference to Cyrus (590-529 B.C.) was understood at once by his Israeli audience. Cyrus was the Persian king who conquered the Babylonians, and set free the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, allowing them to return to their homeland, the Land of Israel. Many Jews believe that Cyrus helped their ancestors to build the Second Temple. Ever since, in Jewish scriptures and in Jewish minds, that Pesian king has been revered as the exemplar of tolerance, and of sympathy for the Jews. . That is the part of the Persian past that the Shah’s son promises to help resurrect, once the evil regime that has ruled Iran for 44 years is swept away by a popular revolt so strong that the mullahs will prove incapable of suppressing,, as Reza Pahlavi is convinced will happen in his lifetime.
His trip underscores Israel’s message of unity with the Iranian people, given that the two nations have a historic relationship that continued with the modern state and was destroyed only in 1979 during the Islamic revolution that thrust Pahlavi’s father Mohammed out of power.
The Israeli leaders, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, continually stress that they have no quarrel with the Iranian people. Netanyahu, in a 2017 speech spoke of setting up a Farsi -language website to help Iranian farmers learn waste-water management, and insisted, as he has many times since, that the “Iranian people are good and decent people.” Israel only has, he insists, a “quarrel with the wicked regime” that rules over them. He did not say then or since that should Israel successfully destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, humiliating the regime and showing it up, Israel would not only be ending a grave threat to its own existence and to peace in the region, but might well hasten the end of the regime. For how could the Supreme Leader and the rest of his sinister retinue ever recover from such a devastating attack?
Before Khomeini’s ascension to power in 1979, Iran and Israel had been allies, both odd men out as non-Arab states in an otherwise pan-Arab sea.
The Islamic Republic has since treated Israel as an enemy nation and has threatened to annihilate it, a goal which has caused Israeli leaders to view it as an existential threat akin to that which the Jews faced from Nazi Germany. Iranian leaders are also among those who have denied that the Holocaust occurred.
To counter that image, Pahlavi went directly from Ben-Gurion Airport to the national Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem.
“It is especially meaningful for me to be here on #YomHaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, I join Holocaust survivors and their families at @yadvashem to help keep the memory of Holocaust victims alive. As author Elie Wiesel said, without memory there is no hope.”
At the end of the ceremony Pahlavi stood for Israel’s national anthem and then met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah.
And after he had met with Netanyahu and other officials, Reza Pahlavi went to pay a visit to the family of Rabbi Leo Dee, whose wife, and two of his daughters, were murdered on April 6 by Palestinian terrorists.
Gamliel [Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, who organized Reza Pahlavi’s trip] said that Pahlavi was “the most senior Iranian personality to ever come to a public visit to Israel. We appreciate the Crown Prince’s expression of solidarity with the citizens of Israel in the face of the severe terrorist attacks perpetrated by Iran.”
She added that she was also grateful for his visit to Yad Vashem “in order to sympathize with the Jewish people, in contrast to Iran’s rulers who deny the Holocaust and encourage antisemitism. Together, through a common vision, we will take the first step in building bridges and collaborations between the two peoples.”
Prior to his arrival Pahlavi wrote of his visit, “I want the people of Israel to know that the Islamic Republic does not represent the Iranian people. The ancient bond between our people [beginning with King Cyrus] can be rekindled for the benefit of both nations.”
Reza Pahlavi also prayed the Western Wall on his second day in Israel.
Pahlavi tweeted that 2,500 years ago, Cyrus the Great had liberated the Jewish people from captivity and helped them rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.
He said: “It is with profound awe that I visit the Western Wall of that Temple and pray for the day when the good people of Iran and Israel can renew our historic friendship.”
He quoted a verse from the Holy Hebrew Bible saying, “So said Cyrus, the king of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of the heavens delivered to me, and He commanded me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.’”
He also read Psalms, guided by a local rabbi, while praying for peace between the two nations.
Reza Pahlavi also visited the world center of the Bahai’ faith, keenly aware of the savage persecution of Baha’is in Iran today, and wanting to show his solidarity with the Baha’i.
Finally, he met with Iranian Jews, of whom a quarter-million live in Israel, to remember with them their shared past, and to speak of the future when the current Iranian regime has been swept from the scene.
Reza Pahlavi’s visit to Israel was a triumph. He continually recalled the benevolence toward Jews of King Cyrus in the distant past, and in his own sympathetic presence reminded the Jews of Israel of how well Iranian Jews had fared before Ayatollah Khomeini took power. He hoped, and believed, that those tolerant times would surely return when the Iranians overthrew their tormentors. Reza Pahlavi does not want any power for himself. In 2021, he called on Iranians to consider creating an elected monarch position as part of any system that replaces the Islamic republic, while downplaying the prospect that he would serve in such a role. He doesn’t want to inherit power as the late Shah’s son, or even to be elected to serve as a constitutional monarch. His self-abnegation is sincere. Reza Pahlavi’s desire is freedom for the subjugated people of Iran and, as a corollary to that freedom, as he said in Jerusalem on April 15 and 16, the renewal of close ties between those natural friends, and unnatural enemies, the people of Israel and the people of Iran.
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