In a rare public show of respect for minority religions, the Iranian government announced that Jewish schools across the country will now be closed on Saturdays.
Ali Yunesi, President Rouhani’s special assistant in tribal and religious minority affairs, announced that the administration had approved a request to close schools on the Jewish sabbath in early February.
Siamak Mare Sedq, who represents Iran’s Jewish community in parliament, told Azad News Agency (ANA) he was pleased that the government had accepted the request. “According to the Jewish religion, Saturday is the weekly day of rest and worship and nobody should work, unless absolutely necessary. Practicing Jews usually go to synagogues on this day. Now Jewish students do not go to school on Saturdays, as well as Fridays, which is the official day of holiday in Iran.” The request was lodged last year.
According to ANA,Yunesi held a session at Tehran University’s social studies department to discuss the policies of “the government of wisdom and hope,” focusing specifically on ethnic and religious minority affairs in Iran. The government official said he had met with the representatives of religious minorities, including Armenian Christians, on a weekly basis. It was important, he said, to ensure that any issues relating to minority groups were addressed in order to “keep challenges to a minimum.”
The Islamic Republic recognizes Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism as minority faiths in Iran, and all three are represented in parliament.
But it does not recognize Iran’s largest religious minority, the Baha’is, and bars them from higher education. Authorities regularly target prominent Baha’i leaders, and several Baha’i teachers and students are currently in prison.
The history of Jewish settlement in Iran goes back 2,700 years. There are several Jewish historical shrines in Iran, including the shrine of the prophet Daniel in Susa, the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, and the shrine of Habakkuk in Toyserkan. In addition, there are several well known Jewish religious scholars — many of them respected by Muslim leaders — buried in Iran, including Rabbi Harav Or-sheragah in Yazd and Moshe-Ha-Lavi in Kashan.
Read the original article in Persian
For more on the history, politics and culture of Iran’s Jewish community, read Iran, the Middle East’s least anti-Semitic Country