Iran's official Islamic news agency reported a month ago that wealthy Iranian Jews already living in the Zionist State had offered $10,000 to every Jew in Iran who was willing to emigrate to the Zionist State. According to the report, the Jews of Iran rejected the offer because "they are not interested in moving to the occupied territory, since they enjoy full religious freedom in Iran."
The incentives - ranging from £5,000 a person to £30,000 for families - were offered from a special fund established by wealthy expatriate Jews in an effort to prompt a mass migration to Israel among Iran's 20,000-strong Jewish community. The offers were made with Israel's official blessing and were additional to the usual state packages it provides to Jews emigrating from the diaspora.
However, the Society of Iranian Jews dismissed them as "immature political enticements" and said their national identity was not for sale.
"The identity of Iranian Jews is not tradable for any amount of money," the society said in a statement. "Iranian Jews are among the most ancient Iranians. Iran's Jews love their Iranian identity and their culture, so threats and this immature political enticement will not achieve their aim of wiping out the identity of Iranian Jews."
The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported that the incentives had been doubled after offers of £2,500 a head failed to attract any Iranian Jews to leave for Israel.
Some Iranian Jews denied the truth of the story. But Iran's only Jewish member of parliament, Morris Motamed, indirectly confirmed the report when he told the British newspaper The Guardian, "This offer gives the Jews of Iran an opportunity to show their loyalty. It also embarrasses them, as if there were a possibility that Iranian Jews could be bought out with money."
Motamed further stated, "Iranian Jews were always able to emigrate, and indeed three quarters of them did so after the [1979 Islamic] revolution. But 70 percent of them went to America, not to the State of Israel!"
The Jewish community in Iran is at least 2,700 years old. At the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, the community numbered about 80,000, but now there are only 20,000. This is still a much greater Jewish population than in any other Middle Eastern country besides the Zionist state. The Ayatollah Khoumeini, who led the revolution, met with representatives of the Jewish community upon his return from exile in Paris. He then issued a fatwa declaring that the Jews must be protected.
Iranian Jews continue to live in their historic homeland. Only 152 Jews have left Iran between October 2005 and September 2006, less than the 297 in the previous year and 183 in the year before that. The Iranian Jewish community is officially recognized by the government as a minority group and also has a seat in parliament. In Tehran there are 11 functioning synagogues, some of which also maintain Jewish dayschools. However, since 1996 there has been no rabbi in Iran. There are two kosher restaurants, a Jewish hospital and an old-age home. There is also a Jewish library with 20,000 books, and the Jews publish their own newspaper. As is well-known, Iran has several famous Jewish sites, including the graves of Mordechai, Esther, Habakuk and Daniel, which are visited daily by a large number of Iranians, Jewish and non-Jewish.