Last week, Iran unveiled a memorial commemorating the lives of Jewish soldiers who died fighting for the country in the Iran-Iraq war. The monument, located in Tehran, has inscriptions in both Hebrew and Persian, and the ceremony remembered the fallen soldiers as “martyrs.” Photos from the state-run news agency IRNA show officials putting wreaths on the graves of Jewish soldiers and praying together, Israeli media reported .
Haaretz newspaper reported
Iran, a home for Jews for more than 3,000 years, has the Middle East’s largest Jewish population outside of Israel. But while Iran’s Jews in recent years had their faith continually criticized by the country’s previous governments, they’ve found new acceptance under moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
“The government has listened to our grievances and requests. That we are being consulted is an important step forward,” said Homayoun Samiah, leader of the Tehran Jewish Association. “Under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nobody was listening to us. Our requests fell on deaf ears.”
The Iran-Iraq War cost Iran 1 million lives and altered the demographic landscape of the country, ushering in what has become a national fertility crisis.
According to the report the Iranian government’s treatment of its own population of 20,000 Jews has warmed markedly under Rouhani.
The erection of the monument is one of a number of moves Rouhani’s government has made away from the incendiary anti-Semitism of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who set the bar rather low when it came to friendliness towards the Jewish people, the report said .
Earlier this year, Rouhani’s governemnt made a donation of $400,000 to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital. The donation, widely seen as symbolically significant, was accompanied by comments by the Health Ministry that increasing support for hospitals serving Iran’s Christians and Jews was a priority for the administration. Rouhani’s brother, who presented the gift, was quoted as saying “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.”