However, toward the end of his rule, the treatment of Jews became harsher; upon advice from a Jewish convert and Shi'a clergy, the Shah forced Jews to wear a distinctive badge on clothing and headgear.
Outcaste (RLE Iran D) | Jewish Life in Southern Iran | Taylor & Francis Group
In , all Jews were expelled from Isfahan because of the common belief of their impurity and forced to convert to Islam. However, as it became known that the converts continued to practice Judaism in secret and because the treasury suffered from the loss of jizya collected from the Jews, they were allowed to revert to Judaism in However, they were still required to wear a distinctive patch upon their clothings. Under Nadir Shah — , an ostensibly Sunni leader, Jews experienced a period of relative tolerance when they were allowed to settle in the Shi'ite holy city of Mashhad.
Nader even employed many Jews in sensitive positions and he brought Jewish administrators as protectors of his treasures from India. Nader also ordered Jewish holy books to be translated into Persian. The Jews became prominent in trade in Mashhad, and established commercial relationships with the British, who favored dealing with them. After the assassination of Nader in , Jews turned to the British traders and Sunni Turkomens for political support. At the time Jews formed close ties with the British and provided banking support and intelligence for them.
They enjoyed the Shah's protection in Shiraz, but when the forces of Karim Khan took Basra in , many Jews were killed, their properties looted and their women were raped. A Dutch traveller to Shiraz at the time of Karim Khan states:"Like most of the cities of the east, the Jews of Shiraz dwell in a separate quarter of their own, and they live, at least outwardly, in great poverty.
These people are more odious to the Persians than any other faith, and every opportunity is taken to oppress and extort money from them, the very boys on the street are accustomed to beat and insult them, of which treatment they dare not complain"  The Zand dynasty came to an end when Lotf Ali Khan Zand was murdered by the Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar. Later Hajj Ebrahim's daughter married the new prime minister and formed the influential Qavam family which remained influential in Iran for at least two centuries.
Rabbi David Hillel who visited Persia in wrote of a forced conversion shortly before his trip. Stern who was a Jewish-Christian missionary wrote that all merchants in Vakil Bazaar are ethnic Jews who in order to save themselves from death rebuke the faith of their fathers constantly. In the middle of the 19th century, J. Benjamin wrote about the life of Persian Jews: "…they are obliged to live in a separate part of town…; for they are considered as unclean creatures… Under the pretext of their being unclean, they are treated with the greatest severity and should they enter a street, inhabited by Mussulmans, they are pelted by the boys and mobs with stones and dirt… For the same reason, they are prohibited to go out when it rains; for it is said the rain would wash dirt off them, which would sully the feet of the Mussulmans… If a Jew is recognized as such in the streets, he is subjected to the greatest insults.
The passers-by spit in his face, and sometimes beat him… unmercifully… If a Jew enters a shop for anything, he is forbidden to inspect the goods… Should his hand incautiously touch the goods, he must take them at any price the seller chooses to ask for them Sometimes the Persians intrude into the dwellings of the Jews and take possession of whatever please them. Should the owner make the least opposition in defense of his property, he incurs the danger of atoning for it with his life However this relaxation was not perceived positively by the masses and the Shia clergy.
Writing in a letter from Tehran Jewish community indicates although the Shah is a "righteous king and a lover of all the seed of the Jews as the apple of his eye" and he and his deputy are Jews' Lovers the gentile masses are accustomed to mistreating the Jews. In Sir William Taylour Thomson finally succeeded to force the Shah to abolish the Jizya tax for the Persian Jewry  Many times Iranian central government wished to help the Jews but did not have enough influence in places where local rulers and Shia clergy were powerful.
In one incident of this type in Hamedan in , an argument occurred between a Jewish goldsmith and a customer, eventually a crowd gathered and the goldsmith was accused of blaspheming Islam, a crime worthy of capital punishment in Islamic legal law. People started beating the Jew. However people were so angry, that they broke into the house and killed him and burned his body.
Sir William Taylour Thomson contacted Iranian authorities about this matter and a levy tax was imposed on all Muslim population of the city. Jewish board of deputees sent gratitude to William Taylour Thomson for intervening on behalf of the Jews. The following street song which was common in Tehran in the 19th century demonstrates the negative view of average Persian Muslim towards the Persian Jews:. Lord Curzon described the regional differences in the situation of the Persian Jews in the 19th century: "In Isfahan, where they are said to be 3, and where they occupy a relatively better status than elsewhere in Persia, they are not permitted to wear kolah or Persian headdress, to have shops in the bazaar, to build the walls of their houses as high as a Moslem neighbour's, or to ride in the street.
In Teheran and Kashan they are also to be found in large numbers and enjoying a fair position. In Shiraz they are very badly off. In Bushire they are prosperous and free from persecution. Another European traveler reported a degrading ritual to which Jews were subjected for public amusement:. In other times, the attacks on the Jews were related to their association with the foreigners.
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An event of this sort occurred in , when Elyas a Jewish banker for the British Residency in Bushehr "was attacked for doing it's business in the bazaar. He went to England and met with Moses Montefiore , who provided "certificates" against the accusations of the Jews. In the 19th century, there were many instances of forced conversions and massacres, usually inspired by the Shi'a clergy.
Driven by persecutions, thousands of Persian Jews emigrated to Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Radio Free Europe. The influence of the Shi'a clergy was weakened, and the restrictions on Jews and other religious minorities were abolished.
Modern Hebrew was incorporated into the curriculum of Jewish schools and Jewish newspapers were published. Jews were also allowed to hold government jobs. In addition, Reza Shah sympathized with Nazi Germany , making the Jewish community fearful of possible persecutions, and the public sentiment at the time was definitely anti-Jewish   During the time of Hitler there were many rumors in Iran that he secretly has converted to Islam and has taken the name Heydar the title of Imam Ali. The rumors stated that Hitler had a necklace depicting the picture of Imam Ali and was planning to reveal his true religion after defeating the deceitful British, the godless Russians and the Jews.
A popular folk poem at the time said: "Imam is our supporter, Hossein is our master. If Germany doesn't arrive, dirt on our heads. A spike in anti-Jewish sentiment occurred after the establishment of the State of Israel in and continued until due to the weakening of the central government and strengthening of the clergy in the course of political struggles between the Shah and Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
Eliz Sanasarian estimates that in —, about one-third of Iranian Jews, most of them poor, emigrated to Israel. From the beginning of the 20th century, the literacy rate among the Jewish minority was significantly higher than the Muslim masses. In about 80 percent of the Jewish population were literate, whereas most Muslims could not read and write. In only 30 percent of Muslims were literate, whereas this figure was more than 80 percent for the Jews. During this time, the synagogues in Shiraz remained closed for more than ten weeks until Tisha B'Av for fear of attacks from Muslims masses.
Jewish sources report that many gentiles tried to invade the Jewish ghetto and were dispersed by the police. In the s, only 10 percent of Iranian Jews were classified as impoverished; 80 percent were middle class and 10 percent wealthy. Although Jews accounted for only a small percentage of Iran's population, in two of the 18 members of the Iranian Academy of Sciences, 80 of the 4, university lecturers, and of the 10, physicians in Iran were Jews.
Details of this connection and how the condition of Iranian Jews improved dramatically in a few short years still awaits rigorous exploration. Prior to the Islamic Revolution in , there were 80, Jews in Iran, concentrated in Teheran 60, , Shiraz 8, , Kermanshah 4, , Isfahan 3, , the cities of Khuzistan , as well as Kashan, Tabriz, and Hamedan. During the Islamic Revolution, many of the Iranian Jews, especially wealthy Jewish leaders in Tehran and many Jewish villages surrounding Esfahan and Kerman, left the country.
Outcaste (RLE Iran D)
In late s, the people who left was estimated at 50,—90, Prior to the independence of Israel in , Urmia was home to Aramaic -speaking Jewish families. As of , only two sisters remain. At the time of the establishment of the State of Israel in , there were approximately ,—, Jews living in Iran , the historical center of Persian Jewry.
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Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token. Have Institutional Access? Forgot your password? Your GarlandScience. The student resources previously accessed via GarlandScience. Resources to the following titles can be found at www. What are VitalSource eBooks? This volume is a unique investigation of contemporary Jewish life in a Muslim country and the first ethnography of the Persian-Jewish diaspora, giving the reader a deep appreciation of this relatively unknown culture.
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