Iran’s president wishes Jews a happy new year, in Hebrew

In Twitter post, Hassan Rouhani notes ‘shared Abrahamic roots,’ and sends Jews ‘Shana Tovah’ greeting

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, August 29, 2015. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, August 29, 2015. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei may be urging the Jewish state’s extinction and anticipating its demise, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani still took time Sunday to wish the Jewish people a happy new year, just in time for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

In a message on his official Twitter account, Rouhani wrote: “May our shared Abrahamic roots deepen respect & bring peace & mutual understanding. L’Shanah Tovah. #RoshHashanah”

The message was accompanied by a 2006 Reuters image of Jews praying in Yousefabad Synagogue in Tehran. L’Shanah Tovah is Hebrew for, May it be a good year.

Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the 1979 Islamic revolution but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe. There are now only about 8,500, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.

This is not the first time that a Rosh Hashanah greeting has been attributed to Rouhani. In 2013, a message claiming to be from Rouhani was posted on Twitter, reading “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.”

Iran denied that the president, who had taken office not long before, had tweeted the greeting.

“Mr. Rouhani does not have a tweeter (sic) account,” presidential adviser Mohammad Reza Sadeq was quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency as saying on the matter.

But the Twitter handle in the 2013 greeting is the same as the one that is today widely acknowledged to be Rouhani’s official account, which was the one used in Sunday’s “Shanah Tovah” tweet.

With one designated member of parliament, Iran’s Jewish community is one of three officially recognized religious minorities. Armenian Christians have two designated MPs, while Assyrian-Chaldeans and Zoroastrians have one each.

Still, many Iranian Jews complain they are not treated equally under the law, Homayoun Sameyah Najaf Abadi, the head of Tehran’s Jewish community and a doctor at Tehran’s Jewish Hospital, said earlier this year. Key positions in government are off-limits and there is some legal discrimination.

AFP contributed to this report

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