isn't there always 2 sides to the story?
IRAN: Life of Jews Living in Iran
Iran remains home to Jewish enclave.
By Barbara Demick
TEHRAN - The Jewish women in the back rows of the synagogue wear long garments in the traditional Iranian style, but instead of chadors, their
heads are covered with cheerful, flowered scarves. The boys in their skullcaps, with Hebrew prayer books tucked under their arms, scamper down the
aisles to grab the best spots near the lush, turquoise Persian carpet of the altar. This is Friday night, Shabbat - Ir
anian style, and the
synagogue in an affluent neighborhood of North Tehran is filled to capacity with more than 400 worshipers.
It is one of the many paradoxes of the Islamic Republic of Iran that this most virulent anti-Israeli country supports by far the largest Jewish
population of any Muslim country.
While Jewish communities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have all but vanished, Iran is home to 25,000 - some here say 35,000 -
Jews. The Jewish population is less than half the number that lived here before the Islamic revolution of 1979. But the Jews have tried to compensate
for their diminishing numbers by adopting a new religious fervor.
''The funny thing is that before the Islamic revolution, you would see maybe 20 old men in the synagogue,'' whispers Nahit Eliyason, 48, as
she climbs over four other women to find one of the few vacant seats. ''Now the place is full. You can barely find a seat.'' Parvis Yashaya, a
film producer who heads Tehran's Jewish community, adds: ''We are smaller, but we are stronger in some ways.''
Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools. It has two kosher restaurants, and a Jewish hospital, an old-age home and
a cemetery. There is a Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament. There is a Jewish library with 20,000 titles, its reading room decorated with
a photograph of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
* Published 10:57 19.01.10
* Latest update 12:15 19.01.10
Syria's Mufti: Islam commands us to protect Judaism
Sheikh Hassoun tells U.S. group: If Mohammed told me Jews or Christians were heretic, I would say he was a heretic.
By Haaretz Service Tags: Islam Jewish World Syria Israel news
Syria's foremost Muslim leader declared on Tuesday that Islam commands its followers to protect Judaism, according to Army Radio.
"If the Prophet Mohammed had asked me to deem Christians or Jews heretics, I would have deemed Mohammed himself a heretic," Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun,
the Mufti of Syria, was quoted as telling a delegation of American academics visiting Damascus.
Hassoun, the leader of Syria's majority Sunni Muslim community, also told the delegates that Islam was a religion of peace, adding: "If Mohammed had
commanded us to kill people, I would have told him he was not a prophet."
Religious wars were the result of politics infiltrating systems of faith, he said, asking:
"Was Moses of Middle Eastern or European descent? Was Jesus a Protestant or a Catholic? Was Mohammed Shi'ite or Sunni?"
According to the Mufti, the conflict between Israel and its Arabs neighbors has nothing to do with an Islamic war against Judaism.
"Before you got American citizenship, and I got Syrian citizenship, we were all brothers under the dome of God," he said.
Jews had once lived in Syria peacefully and with fair treatment, he added, explaining that his own grandfather had a Jewish partner.
"Jews lived in Syria for years and they still have a role in Syrian society," he said.