(For context, this podcast episode was recorded during the protests taking place in Iran in 2018.)
Jews have a unique perspective on Iran/Persia. The narrative of exile and redemption that is so much a part of the Jewish identity, believe it or not, was forged in Persia. Modern day Rabbinic Judaism is codified in a Babylonian Talmud written in Persian, colored with Persian ideas and ideals.
We discuss Iran as a country (taking care to avoid politics), its history, and the Jewish People’s history with Persia. Did you know the Iranian government is actually based on Plato’s Republic? Air conditioning, as a concept, was developed in Iran. Persia invented the world’s first vertical axis windmills. And Persia, amazingly, invented the concept of Paradise. You won’t believe this, but Paradise as a concept started as the ideal of a beautiful, personal, nature oasis meant to create a place for personal introspection and enjoyment. The happy place created there became, over time, the idea of an afterlife of enjoyment in a happy place. Multiculturalism, too, is originally a Persian value.
Iran: Exile and Redemption
Exploring Persia takes us to Exile and Redemption, the World to Come, identity, peoplehood, and the unique conception of exile/redemption that the Jewish people has forged and crafted in its development. Development, in its essence, is an absorptive process, and what the Jewish people grew into in their stays in Persia (there were two! Jews were there for both the Achaemenid and Sassanian dynasties) was fundamental in our development. We take for granted a Jewish belief in Olam Haba (the World to Come), but we developed it based on Persian ideas.
Jews and Iranians, as peoples, are historical friends. We have much gratitude to Persia. We lament the current Iranian government and its sad fixation on ending the Jewish State, and express our admiration for the Iranian people standing up to an oppressive regime.
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