In the Arena

Belated Thanks

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Much mayhem at the Al Quds day festivities in Iran yesterday. The former reform President Mohammed Khatami was attacked by thugs, apparently. The former establishmentarian President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who endorsed Mousavi in the last election, was denied his traditional position as the Quds Day speaker at Friday prayers. The current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued his odious Holocaust denial.

Which reminded me…

on this, the beginning  of the Jewish New Year: Belated thanks to the Persian Emperor Cyrus for conquering Babylon and allowing the Jews to return home to Israel 3500, or so, years ago. Cyrus is the only non-Jew mentioned favorably in the Old Testament:

1 This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never again to shut against him. 2 This is what the LORD says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

So, being nice to Jews was profitable for Cyrus and the Achmaenid dynasty. It was the beginning of a natural alliance between Israel and Persia (against Iraq!) that flourished as recently as the 1980’s when Israel surreptitiously provided assistance to Iran during its war against Saddam Hussein. Indeed, many religious scholars believe that Zoroatrianism, the Persian monotheist religion (persecuted by the Islamic Republic) had a profound influence on Judiasm. And Judaism, obviously, had a profound influence on Islam. Indeed, if the Jews of Medina hadn’t rejected Mohammed, things might have turned out very differently. (But then, we Jews have had a disastrous history of disdain for those who were not family–but that’s another story.)

In any case, this bit of Biblical history also reminds us that the land of Israel was always home to both Jews and Philistines  (now Palestinians). And it also reminds us that a Jewish homeland on part of that land is as deeply embedded in history  as an Iranian homeland on the lands of the Achmaenid Dynasty. But, anyway, as I said, I’d like to thank Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for having such enlightened ancestors, who enabled the re-establishment of the state of Israel after the Babylonian conquest.

Just saying.