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Iran to Israel: Persian Israelis

Israel is the melting pot of cultures -- let's explore Persian culture before Purim (as the story took place in ancient Persia!)

Persian Jews are Jews from Iran. The first big wave of immigration of Iranians to Israel was not that long ago -- it was just before 1979! But Persia is woven into Jewish history, as that is where the story of Purim takes place.

Although Iran is considered an "enemy country" of Israel, it is one of the few countries in the middle east that still has a large Jewish population. There are almost 10,000 Jews still in Iran, although the vast majority of Persian Jews live in Israel (200,000-250,000.) Many families are now split up, but have tried to keep in touch!

Can you imagine how difficult this is for them?

It is especially difficult since this year, in May, Iran passed a law that punishes anyone who has planned contact with Israelis -- family or not! There are harsh consequences for anyone who breaks these laws -- including prison time, lashes, or large fines.

If you're interested in what that dynamic looks like, you should check out the TV show Tehran. It follows the story of Mossad agent Tamar, as she enters Tehran on a secret mission. But it also highlights some of the experiences of Israelis who have been separated from their family in Iran.

Perhaps the most common way to find Persian influence in Israel is through food. There are many Persian restaurants where you can try authentic food.

A bowl of marak adom with pieces of beets and a green leaf for garnish
A bowl of marak adom with kubeh / Becca Fox

Kubeh Adoma is one such treat. It is meat stuffed dough, in a spiced beet soup. Half the fun is in the pink color, but the sweet and savory combination is truly a masterpiece.

Ghormeh Sabzi is a Persian herb stew. Lemony, spicy, and full of rich meat, nothing is better on a cold rainy day than this. There are tons of options for Persian food in Israel, but we recommend Salimi on Nahalat Binyamin Street in Tel Aviv if you're looking to try a few different dishes for a reasonable price! They pile on the food and the flavor.

Persian culture is colorful, tasty, and a major part of what makes Israel what it is today!


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