How will Jews in Muslim countries mark Purim?

How are Jews in Muslim countries preparing to mark the festival of Purim? The foiling of a genocidal plot against the Jews of Persia is a particularly delicate matter to celebrate in present-day Iran. Rachel Avraham of Jerusalem Online looks at various beleaguered communities:

Purim in Holon, Israel in 2011 (photo: Avishai Teicher)

Across the world, the Jewish people are preparing to celebrate the
Purim holiday, which is a festive occasion full of joy and happiness.
However, Jews living in many Muslim countries find themselves in a
precarious situation.  Due to threats posed by radical Islamist groups
such as ISIS or the regime itself, these Jews are still celebrating but
at the same time, they do so in fear.  However, there are exceptions to
this general trend. Despite the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East
and North Africa, there are places where Jews do feel more secure and
thus are able to enjoy the holiday more. In honor of the holiday,
is exploring, how are Jews in the Islamic world
celebrating Purim under the radical Islamist threat?

Although the holiday originates in Iran and features Iranian
heroes, the plight of Iranian Jews celebrating Purim is quite dire. The
population that once exceeded a vibrant 70,000 has now dwindled to
approximately 12,000-15,000 members. Despite claims by the Iranian
regime that they accept Jews as a protected religious group, many Jews
have chosen to flee the land of their ancestors. According to anonymous
sources, Iranian Jews can go to synagogue, attend Jewish day schools,
close their businesses for Shabbat and even to consume wine for
religious rituals in a country where alcohol consumption is punished by
lashes and jail time. They claim that the Iranian leadership even
provides financial support for a Jewish hospital and erected a monument
honoring Iranian Jewish soldiers who lost their lives during the
Iran-Iraq War.

However, all Iranian Jews must demonstrate their enmity towards
the State of Israel and to avoid having any connection with it. The
anonymous sources stress that historic Jewish cemeteries in Iran have
quietly been getting destroyed and local Jews don’t have the ability to
object to it.  They stress that even though Jewish day schools exist,
they are not autonomous and they are controlled by the government.  Many
of them even have Muslim principals who force Jewish children to go to
school on Shabbat. Prayer books and rabbis are in short supply. Given
this, the sources stress that local Jews feel like outsiders in the
Islamic Republic of Iran despite their almost 2,000 years of history in
the country.

Iranian Jewish dissident Marjan Keypour Greenblatt added that one
explanation for this sentiment is the Shia supremacy that is prevalent
across Iran: “The officially recognized religions (Jews, Christians and
Zoroastrians) are still second-class citizens according to the law,
entitled to lesser rights and privileges.” Nevertheless, despite the
fact that Iranian Jews suffer from this predicament, Iranian Jewish
dissident Dr. Sima Goel stressed that the local Jews still take pride in
their identity and celebrate Purim in spite of “the dictator that
oppresses them.”

Read article in full

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.