Roya Hakakian in Tablet:
Among the world’s endangered minorities, Iranian Jews are an anomaly. Like their counterparts, their conditions categorically refute all the efforts their nation makes at seeming civilized and egalitarian—and so they embody, often without wanting to, all that is ugly and unjust about their native land.
But Iran’s Jewish community does something more. It also embodies the nation’s hope, the narrative of its resistance and struggle for a better future—one that has been on the brink of arriving ever since the revolution in 1979. To understand why Jews continue to remain in Iran is to understand the tortured tale of Iran. Nowhere else can the stubborn continuity of a minority stand as a metaphor in the elegy of a nation’s downfall.
The metaphor is apt because it is born out of a paradox. And contemporary Iran is nothing if not an enigmatic paradox. The world’s only Shiite theocracy—the archenemy of Israel—led by Holocaust deniers, is still home to some 10,000 Jews. Time and again, leading journalists have used this fact to make a partisan point. They have gone into synagogues, sat across from one of the few savvy representatives of the community, and asked the same tired questions: Are you afraid? Are you mistreated? Do you like Israel? Only to return to broadcast the same tired answers: We are not afraid. We are treated very well. We only pray to Jerusalem, but belong to Iran.