Even if this was part of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s campaign of smiles for the West, the visit to the Shiraz synagogue Friday night, May 1, by the head of his assistant for minority affairs, Hojat- Islam Ali Yunessi, was especially noteworthy. He was the first high-ranking Iranian cleric to visit a Jewish synagogue in a decade and, moreover, he delivered a speech in praise of Iran’s ancient Jewish community’s successful coexistence with other groups.
But most remarkably, he admitted that historical research and archeological excavations in the last 150 years had corroborated the Biblical account of the deeds of the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great (550-530 BCE).
(The Bible recounts that Cyrus issued a fabled decree for the emancipation of slaves, including the Jewish people, from Babylonian captivity, and allowed them to return to their homeland in Judah and rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.) Continue reading