Friday, July 31, 2015

Israeli artists create virtual Iranian embassy

A plot of land lies vacant in Tel Aviv: it was intended in the 1970s for the Iranian embassy to Israel - before the Ayatollahs' regime declared that the annihilation of Israel was its strategic goal. Now a group of Israeli artists are trying to make the Iranian embassy into more than a pipe-dream. NPR reports:
Israeli artist Matan Pincus sits in the 'Iranian embassy in Jerusalem' (Photo: Daniel Estrin)

Everything in Baradarian's shop seems to remind him of the world he left behind. Take pistachios: The U.S. bans the import of Iranian pistachios; Israel does, too. So, the pistachios in Baradarian's shop come from California.

He says the California variety is second-rate.

"Now that sanctions on Iran are set to be lifted, maybe Iranian pistachios will eventually make their way back onto the market," he says. Even so, he adds, that would not make the nuclear deal with Iran worth it.

"Pistachios won't solve the problem," he says. "Iran says it wants to destroy us."
There's a paradox here: Iran is hostile to the Jewish state, but it also is home to an ancient Jewish community.

Baradarian keeps in touch with his relatives in Iran on the phone and on the Internet. Jews in Iran can travel discreetly, via a third country, to visit relatives in Israel. Some even pack specialty Iranian tea blends to sell to Baradarian.

Small numbers of Iranian Jews are still moving to Israel each year. In an ideal world, they could be a good bridge between Israel and Iran. But an Israeli government spokesman refused to discuss immigration statistics, so as not to anger the Iranian government and endanger Iran's Jewish community.

Kamal Penhasi, a Jewish immigrant in Israel who runs an online magazine in Farsi, says he has readers back in Iran. But he says Iranian regime-affiliated websites have posted his photo and accused him of being an Israeli spy.

"I am a simple citizen, Iranian-Israeli citizen," Penhasi says. "I love my country, I love this country. I hope to see peace between the two nations. That's all."

Relations between Iran and Israel weren't always this bad. During the rule of the Shah in the 1970s, Iran purchased a plot of land in an upscale Tel Aviv district to build a new embassy. Then came the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and diplomatic ties broke off.

That land still belongs to Iran. Today, there's a small playground and benches, but Israel won't let anything be built — in case Iran ever renews ties with Israel and builds its embassy.

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