More than a dozen Iranian Jewish families were crying with joy today at Ben Gurion airport in Israel after the arrival of 40 of their family members who had secretly left Iran. According to Jewish Agency officials in Israel, the Iranian Jews flew into Israel via an unnamed third country in a covert and complex operation. This group of Jewish immigrants arriving from Iran is the single largest this year since the Chicago-based “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” (IFCJ) offered $10,000 for each Jew who decided to leave Iran. So far roughly 200 Iranian Jews left Iran this year for Israel through funding provided by the IFCJ and the Jewish agency. Emotions were running high for the Iranian Jews who had just arrived:
“I’m in heaven,” gushed Avraham Dayan, 63, waiting for his son, daughter-in-law and grandson to arrive. He said he had not seen his 38-year-old son in 11 years, missing his son’s wedding and the birth of his grandson.
Michael, a 15-year-old Iranian Jewish immigrant, said he told all his friends where he was going, and they wanted to come along. “I was scared in Iran as a Jew,” he said.
While Jews who choose to leave Iran can appoint legal custodians to manage their assets, none of the 40 Jews who arrived from Iran today have appointed any such custodians and will most likely lose their assets entirely to the Iranian government. This event might have indeed been emotional for the Jews arriving from Iran, but there are still about 20,000 Jews still living in Iran and under potential danger from the regime. The Iranian government has been using them as propaganda pawns to supposedly show that they are “good to the Jews” despite comments made by Iran’s president calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
What troubles me is the fact that Jewish organizations in Europe and the U.S. have not done more financially to help lure the Jews of Iran to leave that country. Millions of dollars were raised to help bring over millions of Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990’s but 20,000 Jews from Iran do not seem to be a priority for world Jewry. It is a sad day in the world when an Evangelical Christian group does more to help Iran’s Jews that Jewish groups in America and Europe! Yes it is true that some of the Jews living in Iran may not want to part with their money and assets there, but Israel with the help of American Jewish organizations needs to put together a comprehensive project that will provide decent livelihoods for them in Israel. Perhaps when these Iranian Jews see that there is no financial future for them in Iran which is experiencing very serious economic turmoils, then they may more quickly leave that country.
Unfortunately the majority of Jews who fled Iran in the 1980’s only did so under fear for their lives. After a few Jews were executed or imprisoned by Iran’s regime, did large groups of families leave their assets and often times illegally flee the country! Sadly it seems as if it takes dangerous events to prompt Iran’s Jews to leave their homes behind even though they know they are gambling with their lives everyday they wake up in Iran.
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