Sunday, June 28, 2009

Iranian Jews in Israel demonstrate solidarity

Flag-(2) No, this show of support for anti-government protesters is not in Teheran, but the Israeli town of Holon, where demonstrators are somewhat safer. Note that the interviewee Kamal Penhasi estimates Jews in Iran to number no more than 17,000. Via Babylon and beyond blog:

The show of support was organized by Kamal Penhasi, the Iranian-born editor of Shahyad, the only Persian-language magazine published in Israel. "We speak from the throats of the entire Iranian people, whose voices are being silenced by the censorship of the regime that is killing people on the streets …we are part of the Iranian people and want to tell them we are with them. Enough of this regime; the Iranian people deserve their freedom," he said at the demonstration.

Penhasi left Iran shortly after the Islamic Revolution. "I saw what happened in 1979; today's events remind me of that revolution," he said. "This is the great spark in the direction of the big revolution." Penhasi says the regime likes to show that it is strong, but in reality it is crumbling from within. "The people of Iran want their freedom and have taken to the streets to prove it." The young generation in Iran knows exactly what's happening in the outside world, they view Israel as a second paradise on Earth after the U.S. in terms of freedom, he says. Acknowledging that "30 years of brainwashing" have damaged Iranians' sympathy to Israel, Penhasi still believes it's there.

Penhasi has been publishing Shahyad for 19 years. Each month, 2,000 copies of the magazine are printed and it is read by many others online in Israel and elsewhere, including Iran. Besides news and culture, the website serves Penhasi for outreach, for preserving the connection with Iran, keeping an open channel for information and dialogue and documenting the Jewish community's history. Once, he undertook a project to document all the streets in Israel that have Persian- or Iranian-related names and posted them on the website. Iranians were astonished that the Zionist state has so many sites recognizing Iran.

And some repay him in kind, sending him information and pictures from Jewish sites such as cemeteries, including exclusive pictures from the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan. For years, he has collects documentation on the Jews of Iran, with hopes of one day establishing a heritage center. If only the many organizations of Iranian Jews in Israel were better organized and budgeted, this would be possible, he says sighing, envious of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center.

Many still have family among the 15,000-17,000 Jews still living in Iran. It's not always simple and not always safe but there is contact. These days, Penhasi is more plugged in than ever -- but not only with Jews. Phone, e-mails, chats -- he has a constant stream of real-time news, some of it exclusive that he shares with the local press.

Read post in full

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