president _rouhani
The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has donated $400,000 to the Dr. Sapir Hospital, which is the only Jewish hospital located in Iran.

The act itself was performed by the president’s brother, Hossein Fereydoon, but sent from the Rouhani administration. Fereydoon has said of the offer, “Our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.”

This is undoubtedly light years from the previous administration as former president, Mahmooud Ahmadinejad, was not quiet about his discontent towards the Jewish community. This is not an exclusive view for some Arab countries, as the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict has generated negative sentiments towards Israelis.

President Rouhani took office in August of 2013, and ever since has put thoughtful efforts into separating himself from his predecessor. Former President Ahmadinejad had denied that the Holocaust ever occurred, and formally slandered the Jewish society on multiple occasions. Rouhani’s administration is detached from this sort of behavior, as they also took to social media to wish the Jewish community a happy Rosh Hashanah last September.

Iran is home to the most Jews in the Middle Eastern region besides Israel itself. Census reports usually record about 20,000-25,000 Jews in Iran, although certain government census reports from 2011 have cited the number has dropped to 9,000.

This diminishing tally can mainly be attributed to the Khomeini Revolution of 1979, which was heavily influenced by Islam, along with unwelcoming regimes after that. Prior to the revolution, there were about 100,000 Iranian Jews, but many chose to flee from their homes as they felt threatened by the new leadership.

Rouhani’s actions not only benefit the Jewish community, as the Dr. Sapir Hospital actually employs and cares for more Muslims than Jews. For over 50 years the hospital has been open and accepting people of all religions. It is also situated across from the Imam Reza Seminary School in Tehran, which is a prominent Shiite Muslim academy, adding to the intermingling of both religions.

In fact, about 96% of the hospital’s patients are Muslim. The hospital appears to genuinely focus on the medicine, rather than the politics, with an ambiance that is inclusive of all identities. President Rouhani’s recognition and support of this hospital is imperative for the future of these two religions, in hopes that they will coexist peacefully, especially in Iran.

One of the doctors at the Dr. Sapir Hospital, Dr. Mosadegh, was not as shocked about President Rouhani’s kind actions as outsiders, as he proclaimed, “We Jews are a part of Iran’s history. What is important is that Mr. Rouhani makes big news out of supporting us. He is showing that we, as a religious minority, are part of this country, too.”

The implications from this sort of action are tremendous; not only for the sake of humanity, but also for the relationships that Iran has with other countries. Rouhani’s caring approach may undo some of the damage caused by Ahmadinejad, which could lead to lesser sanctions and the possibility of new allies.

Rouhani’s acceptance of the Jewish community may also attract more Israelis to return to Iran, thus reaffirming the importance of Persian Jews to the history of Iran, and its future as well.

Danielle Warren

Sources: National Geographic, New York Times Middle East, New York Times
Photo: Asia Society