Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Seven Ancient Tehran Synagogues Razed; Neighbors Protest
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
(IsraelNN.com) In the once-Jewish neighborhood of Oudlajan in Tehran, seven ancient synagogues have been razed to the ground in recent weeks to make way for residential skyscrapers and other urban renovation. The municipality denies it is behind the destruction of the synagogues, several of which had previously been declared national cultural heritage sites by the Iranian government.
"These buildings, which were part of our cultural, artistic and architectural heritage were burnt to the ground," said Ahmad Mohit Tabatabaii, the director of the International Council of Museums' (ICOM) office in Tehran. He was quoted by the Adnrkonos website on April 15. "With the excuse of renovating this ancient quarter, they are erasing a part of our history," Tabatabaii added.
The ICOM director called for the government to intervene to stop the work, which he said was commissioned by the local authorities. Aside from the synagogues, developers also destroyed two historical mosques in the neighborhood.
In reaction to the large-scale renovations, which began three years ago, a group of residents of Oudjalan sent a letter to the mayor of Tehran asking him to put a halt to the work. Opponents of the work in the neighborhood include many of the remaining residents, Iranian cultural activists and environmentalists.
Although once a well-to-do Jewish neighborhood, Oudjalan lost almost all its Jewish population over the last 50 years. Today, the area is somewhat of an impoverished Tehran slum.
There are approximately between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews living in Iran today, making it the largest Jewish community in a Muslim country. The regime takes pains to show that it is not anti-Semitic, while at the same time regularly calling for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and aiding anti-Jewish terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
Iran's capital, Tehran, has about 11 functioning synagogues, several Jewish schools and a Jewish library, as well as a Jewish old-age home, cemetery and hospital. The Iranian legislature, or Majlis, has a Deputy for Jewish Community Affairs, a position currently held by Morris Mo'tamed.