IDF soldiers sing. Yes – these soldiers represent so much of Israeli life that is more than the defense of the State of Israel. But here, they are not merely singing – they are singing in Persian. The significance of this on a geo-political level may not be great. But for Jews and non-Jews in Iran, this is a major event.

Iran before Khomeini

Many people today believe that Iran has always been a fundamentalist radical Muslim-run country. This could not be farther from the truth. Iran before 1979 and after 1979 have almost nothing in common.

The 1979 revolution against the Shah turned back the clock in Iran in fundamental ways.  Iran was one of the most modernized countries in the Middle East.  International businesses looked for ways to deal with this large country.  Western influence was felt on the streets.  The Shah, the previous monarch of Iran was not a very strong leader – but he was clearly influencing the country in the direction of the West.

All of this quickly changed in the 1979 coup.  The country became rather chaotic and the Iranian military was unstable.  Khomeini was busy stabilizing his power within the military and cleaning out potential enemies from within the Iranian Army.

Enter Saddam Hussein

For 8 long years, Iraq and Iran fought a deadly war.  Saddam Hussein chose to take advantage of Iran’s weakness and looked to take over some land with rich oil fields.  Iran was surprised by the attack.  In the end, more than 100,000 Iranians were killed by Iraqi forces who used chemical weapons.  Total casualties were upwards of half a million people.

Jews in Iran of course left whenever they were able to before, during and after the fall of the Shah.  Many settled in the Land of Israel and some found refuge in the United States or elsewhere.  But some still do live in Iran.

For those Jews who live in Iran to see IDF soldiers singing in Persian must boost their pride.  The mere fact that their host country is threatening the State of Israel and Israel is threatening Iran back must create tremendous unease.  In the end, most of the Jews in Iran will hopefully find a way to peacefully stay safe or leave if they so wish.