Tag: Persian Israelis

Young generation loses interest in Persian heritage

The BBC has a report about the dilemmas facing Iranian Jews in Israel. There is more about RadisIN, the Farsi radio station beamed into Iran from Israel. But try as she might to depict Israeli-Iranians as ‘caught in the middle’, the reporter Beth Ryder finds that the unfinished Koresh cultural and social centre in Holon testifies to the younger generation’s lack of interest in their Persian heritage.

Across town on the lower ground floor of a suburban shopping centre, Parviz Barhourder helps to run a full-time radio operation in his native Farsi language.

Every day of the week, Iranian poetry, music, and politics can be heard blasting over the air waves of Radio RadisIN, but the station has one overall aim – peace.

“Throughout history, until the current regime came to power, there had been constant good relations between Iran and Israel. The aim of our station is to re-establish that relationship,” Parviz explains.

Since the station’s establishment three years ago, a team of 38 Iranian-Israeli volunteers keep RadisIN streaming over the internet, cable and satellite to a large national and international audience of Farsi speakers.

The station takes calls, SMS messages and emails from listeners in Iran, and one of the most commonly talked about subjects, Parviz says, is the impact that Western economic sanctions are having on the country.

“People talk about their weariness with the current situation and tell us how they’re having to store food and other life necessities at home.”

Parviz is concerned about the impact military action could have on his Jewish friends who remain in Iran.

“I’m worried about them. If anything happens, the regime will take them as hostages,” he says.

Parviz Barhourder

Parviz Barhourder estimates his station has around 6,000 listeners in Iran

Iran is home to the largest population of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel. Numbers have declined since the establishment of Israel in 1948, and the revolution which saw the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, but an estimated 25,000 still live there.

“We need to convince the current regime in Tehran to leave their atomic project and become another normal country,” says Parviz.

“As soon as they have access to an atomic bomb, a third world war will be created.”

He does not want to see war with his homeland, but – like many in the community – he would ultimately support military action as a last option.

“If it comes between the hammer and the rock, what are we going to do? The window of opportunity is getting narrower and narrower everyday.”

Not far from studio, the Beit Koresh community centre for Holon’s Iranian population is closed and unfinished. There is a Persian library, but this can only be accessed when the building is open – and that is very rarely.

Standing outside, Kamal Penhasi – editor of Israel’s only Farsi-language magazine Shahyad – remembers the role the centre played for him, arriving in Holon as a 16-year-old in 1979.

“The centre seemed so beautiful, we would come here every week – it was really important,” he says.

But as Iranians have become more integrated in Israel, many of the younger generation have lost interest – the community has just not pulled behind the centre, says Kamal.

“Every Iranian in Holon knows about Beit Koresh – if we were united we could finish the project.

“But we are a wealthy people and everyone wants to be a manager.”

These days, Iranian-Israelis are an integrated and economically successful group. Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected leader of the country’s opposition Kadima party is Iranian-born for example.

Construction began on Beit Koresh over 30 years ago with the financial aid of Iran’s Shah – that was a time when relations between pro-Western Iran and Israel were broadly warm. These days, it is illegal for anyone with an Israeli passport to visit Iran.

Kamal longs to see the removal of the current regime but thinks the most likely way for that to happen is for change to come from within.

“The Iranian people, especially the youth, are capable of bringing about political change, as we saw after the 2009 presidential elections. We in the West should be willing to step in and help them with financing, logistics, information and media support.”

At the magazine’s headquarters, a small shop just off the main stretch in Holon, Kamal’s 22-year-old niece Rose Penhasi says she is worried for Iranian civilians.

“I’m afraid for students like myself in Iran. Here in Israel, we are free to say what we feel, but I know in Tehran they are scared.”

Beit Koresh

Beit Koresh community centre was once a hub for Iranian-Israelis

Despite being born in Israel, Rose learnt Farsi at home before speaking Hebrew, and still tries to maintain links with the country of her parents.

“I used to be able to talk to people my age in Tehran via internet chat rooms and social media, but these days government blocks are making it increasingly difficult.”

Her interest in Iran is unusual amongst her peers. “When I’m at home with my parents and grandparents, I feel 100% Iranian, but when I’m out with my friends, I’m Israeli.”

“Most second generation Iranians have forgotten their roots,” she says.

It is important, she says, for people to acknowledge the distinction between the Iranian people and the regime.

“The civilians in Iran are not like the government and we need make sure they know that Israelis love and support them.”

Rose hopes to visit Tehran one day, to see the family home in Amir Abad she has heard so many stories about, but in the current climate this option is out of the question.

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Article by Ben Lynfield in the Times of Israel

Iranians give thumbs up to Israel’s Farsi radio

Most Iranians don’t agree with Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial

The best information channel in Iran is Israel Radio’s Farsi service (once threatened with closure), while the Voice of America is a disappointment. In spite of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s best efforts, Iranians tell The Media Line, in this Jerusalem Post report,that they have no quarrel with Israel, and don’t deny the Holocaust. (Via Petra M-B)

“The US seems always to be two steps behind,” “Damovand,” the contractor, charged. “There was a window of opportunity following the elections when rioting filled the streets. We hoped for help, but it never came.” They’re not asking for military intervention. “Where,” for instance, “will our electricity come from if nuclear facilities are attacked?”

The Iranian said a second opportunity is now being ignored as the Arab Spring spreads throughout the region, and that the populace is primed for a move.

What, then, is powerful enough to bring down an oppressive regime that doesn’t include military force? The sanctions could work, but won’t unless applied effectively. To “Mobarez Naftooh,” that means targeting the central bank and petroleum companies.

And information. All four of the distant voices were disheartened by the failure of the Voice of America radio to step up to the plate.

“VoA might as well be staffed by agents of the Iranian government,” they all agreed. Although communicating with foreign journalists can cost one his or her life, it will not come as a surprise that the flow of reliable information remains atop the list of “must haves.” Hence, the profound disappointment with VoA. But it will no doubt surprise many that all of the Iranians named Israel Radio’s Farsi channel as the “best radio in Iran.”

In fact, if anything surprising came of the interview it was the unequivocal dispelling of the uncompromising rejection of the Jewish state that has become the signature of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime. Imagine, instead of being told that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the mother of all Middle East conflicts and fuels all unrest found there, we’re hearing that once the Islamic Republic goes, the tinderbox the center of which is Israel disappears.

“We have no borders with Israel and no relationship with Israel,” the contractor told us. “Yalda,” the sole woman of the group, echoed that “the Iranian people have no fight with Israel,” and as if to offer proof that Ahmadinejad doesn’t speak for the people added that, “we do believe the Holocaust happened.”
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Goood morning Tehran, this is Jerusalem!

Iranian Israeli gets conviction for travelling to Iran

An Iranian Israeli is convicted in an Israeli court for going back to Iran. But his defence, that he wanted to help his brother sell his assets, cuts little ice with the leader of Iranian immigrants in Israel, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The conviction of an Ashdod man who traveled to Iran was justified, said David Motai, spokesman for the Central Organization of Iranian Immigrants in Israel, on Wednesday.

Jayad Soulemani, 48, from Ashdod, said he traveled to Iran to sell assets in order to help his brother, who lives there. During his stay he was questioned by Iranian intelligence officers, and was asked questions about Israel and the IDF, according to the charge sheet. Soulemani has expressed regret over his actions, attributing them to poor judgment.

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court sentenced the Iranian-born Soulemani to four months community service and fined him NIS 2,000 for visiting the Islamic Republic two years ago. He was found guilty of traveling to an enemy state without obtaining special permission, after he purchased forged Iranian documents in Turkey. Soulemani was also sentenced to a 10-month suspended prison sentence.

Some 250,000 Iranian-Israelis reside in Israel, while around 25,000 Jews live in Iran.

“The question is very simple,” said Motai said. “If there is a law prohibiting travel to any country, then all citizens must know that violating the law has consequences. It doesn’t matter whether that country is Iran or Morocco, and there are no clauses in the law saying that helping one’s brother can constitute an exception,” Motai told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“Soulemain’s visit could have ended very badly. I know others who have traveled to Iran and were forced to remain there for over two years. Their passports were confiscated and they only got out by paying a bribe,” he continued. “Why are people going to Iran when Iranian leaders are shouting ‘death to Israel’ every day?” Motai asked. “Do we have to visit a country whose leaders constantly speak of our destruction?”

Motai said he, too, had family in the Islamic Republic, adding, “I’m not going there, and I urge all Iranian-Israelis not to go. It’s a bad idea.”

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Persian Israelis advised not to visit Iran

Declaring Iran an enemy state could endanger lives, according to Menashe Amir, an Iranian affairs analysts who works for Israel Radio’s Persian-language service, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Such a move would mean that any Israeli traveling in Iran for sightseeing or visiting relatives could be kept there as a hostage, and this would create a very dangerous situation,” he said Tuesday.

“Amir said there have been many cases of Iranians living abroad who traveled to Iran and were arrested, molested, tortured and prevented from returning home.

“The most prominent recent example, he said, was Parnaz Azima, who holds dual US and Iranian citizenship. She works for Radio Farad, a Persian-language service operated by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty that is funded by the US. When she arrived in Teheran in January, her passport was seized and she has not been let out of the country.

“Amir strongly advised Israelis of Iranian descent from trying to visit Iran. Such visits were rare, he said, but there have been some disturbing incidents in recent years.”

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‘Persian Israelis will never be spies’

Iran’s drive to recruit Persian Israelis as spies using incentives and threats has not worked, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The announcement Tuesday that Iranian intelligence has been trying to recruit Israeli spies came as no surprise to Israel’s Iranian immigrants, many of whom say the efforts have been going on for some time.

“The Iranians have always been searching, and they always try to target olim [new immigrants] as spies,” said Nouriel Shaccid, who works with a rabbinical organization to assist new Iranian immigrants in Israel. “I can say that until now they have not succeeded.”

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