Ancient Persia, scene of the story of Purim, corresponds geographically to present-day Iran. Amid the fallout from Japan’s disastrous earthquake and the continued uprising in Libya, let’s not forget that Iran remains public enemy number one – not just toward Israel but also toward the free world.
The biblical story of Purim tells of the efforts of an evil and arrogant man, Haman, to destroy the Jews. Haman, vizier to the Persian King Ahasuerus, manipulates the king into allowing him to issue an edict to annihilate the kingdom’s Jewish population. Before he can implement this plot, Queen Esther reveals to her husband that she is Jewish, asking him to spare her and her people.
The king, outraged that anyone would threaten his queen and her people, asks who would do such a thing. When Esther reminds him it was Haman, the king orders Haman to be impaled and Queen Esther issues an edict granting the kingdom’s Jews the right to self-defense. When the appointed day arrives, the Jews kill those who were coming to kill them.
In addition to self-defense against a fanatical enemy, the Purim story is about winning the heart, and mind, of a party (King Ahasuerus) whose thinking has been poisoned by an anti-Semitic propagandist (Haman).
Today, Iran is a major source of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish animus – the exact spot from which this hatred sprang in the Purim story. As in earlier times, enemies seek to destroy the Jews, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatening to wipe Israel off the map while racing to attain nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Islamist extremists and phony peace activists seek to poison hearts and minds through propagandistic activities ranging from comparing Israel to apartheid-era South Africa to attempting to break a blockade necessary to Israel’s self-defense.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the seat of not just anti-Israel but anti-Jewish and anti-American hatred worldwide. Iran is exporting weapons and terrorism to Lebanon and Gaza and trains and funds those who attack U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi, whose two sons were murdered by terrorists in Iraq after he visited Israel, says that Iran’s defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, was the officer responsible for ordering terrorist operations, including the1994 bombing of the Mutual Israelita Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. And we believe him.
While it may be easy to despair that the world hates Israel, Jews should consider the Purim story. Many people worldwide have been exposed to a great deal more anti-Israel propaganda than to actual Israelis or Jews. This week’s Israeli effort to assist Japan is a phenomenal example of hasbara. Let these efforts continue, and let the world see the decency and humanity of the Jews.
Before he knew Esther was a Jew, Ahasuerus was content to go along with Haman’s evil plan.
The time may come soon when Israelis will need to act in self-defense against the Islamic Republic. The world’s Jews must be prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The more people know, like, and even love us as we face down our enemies, the better off we will be.