Evangelical Christians in the US have helped convince dozens of Iranian Jews to move to the Zionist state in recent months, offering cash incentives and claiming that Iran's tiny Jewish community is in grave danger.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity that funnels millions of dollars in evangelical donations to Israel every year, is promising $10,000 to every Iranian Jew who comes to Israel, said the group's director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
The project is another example of the alliance between the Zionists and evangelical American Christians, many of whom see the existence of the State of Israel and the return of Jews to the Holy Land as a realization of biblical prophesy.
But an Iran expert said the money would not be enough to draw Iranian Jews, who generally do not perceive themselves to be in great danger in the Islamic republic.
About 25,000 Jews are left in Iran an overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 65 million the remnants of a community with origins dating to biblical times. Iran's Jewish community is the largest in the Middle East outside Israel, and Iranian Jews have some legal protections.
Eckstein said his group has helped bring 82 Jews to the State of Israel from Iran since the project began this year, and hopes to bring 60 more by year's end. The charity, based in Jerusalem and Chicago, has raised $1.4 million for the project, Eckstein said. The IFCJ initially offered $5,000 per immigrant, but doubled the amount when response was lower than expected, he said. Immigrants also receive government aid upon arriving in the State of Israel.
Most Jews in Iran have heard about the grant through word-of-mouth and Israel Radio's broadcasts in Farsi. Iranian government officials would not comment on the new project.
Iran's Jewish community is technically protected by the Islamic Republic's constitution, and has one representative in a 290-seat parliament. "Generally, Jews are free to practice Judaism inside Iran," said Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli analyst whose family emigrated from Iran in the 1980s.
This is not the first time evangelical Christians have taken part in bringing people to the Zionist state. Eckstein's charity also played a role in funding the immigration to Israel of 7,000 members of the Bnei Menashe, a group in India claiming descent from one of the Biblical "lost tribes" of the Jews.
The charity's evangelical donors, who tend to have hard-line political views, see encouraging Jewish immigration as a way of strengthening the country in the face of Arab threats.
The IFCJ is one of the most prominent examples of Israel's alliance with evangelical Christians, who have become among the country's most generous donors and most enthusiastic political supporters.
An organization that brings Jews from a country where they are safe and their rights are protected to a country involved in perpetual warfare and under constant threat is doing no favor for Jews.