JUDAISM

The Jewish community in Iran has very ancient origins, dating back to the first Jewish diaspora, in the 8th century BC. In its 2.700 years of history, the Iranian Jewish community has known periods of great splendor, as during the Sassanid era. After the Islamic conquest, the Jews continued for many centuries to be a numerically important community. In this period, and even up to the nineteenth century, we note the development of a Judeo-Persian literature, written in Hebrew characters and modeled, in its forms, on the classics of medieval Persian poetry. The Iranian Constitution says that Jews are equal to Muslims and have the right to self-administration. Jewish burial rites and divorce laws are accepted by Islamic courts. Jews are enlisted in the army like all other Iranian citizens. Many Iranian Jews fought during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) as soldiers. About 15 of them were killed. The Jewish community in Iran is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and they are assigned a seat in the Iranian Parliament. In the 2000 there were about 30.000-35.000 Jews in Iran, now there would be roughly 25.000, who live mainly in the capital, Tehran, and in large cities like Isfahan and Shiraz, but also in some smaller ones like Hamedan, Yazd and Sanandaj , where there are synagogues for local communities. Also in Hamedan is the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai, the most important place of pilgrimage for Iranian Jews, also open to tourists. The Jewish community in Iran is the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East. Tehran has 11 synagogues, many of them with adjoining Jewish schools. The Jews have two kosher restaurants, a retirement home and a cemetery. There is also a Jewish library with about 20.000 books. There are Jewish scholars who do research on Judaism in Tehran in the Central Library of the Jewish Association. Iranian Jews have their own daily newspaper (called Ofogh-e-Bina). The "Dr. Sapir" Jewish Hospital is the largest hospital in Iran. Iran has one of only four Jewish hospitals in the world. Jews in Iran are known for some professions, such as making gold and antique jewelry, textiles and carpets.

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