Monday, July 26, 2021

Continuing on with my summary of portions of the book, "Eight years in Asia and Africa from 1846-1855" by Jewish explorer Israel Joseph Benjamin, this was what he had to say about the Jews of Shiraz, Persia, present-day Iran:

Shiraz. — Deplorable condition of the Jews.
Only about twenty years since, nearly 3000 Jews lived in this once magnificent and flourishing city. By persecutions, oppressions and odium of all kinds more than 2500 of them were compelled to go over to the Mussulman sect of Ali. Although outwardly apostate, a great number of these families still preserve in their hearts the faith of their fathers, and even find means of having their children circumcised in secret. Nine synagogues in the town testify to the former greatness of the Jewish community ; now unfortunately, they are almost all laid waste.
Benjamin then goes on to describe how the Jewish women manage to remain true to their religion even after being forced to convert, and then describes how one of the Jewish leaders in the town was tortured mercilessly when he refused to convert.

He ends off with another story:

A rich  Persian took a fancy to a Jewish girl, and brought her in the home of her parents. As, however, these visits became dangerous, he tried to persuade the girl to adopt the MussuIman faith, so that she might become his wife. "My parents would die of grief," said the Jewess,"if I forsook my religion." — "You heard it," said the Persian to his companions, "she will embrace the Islam faith." 

Notwithstanding all her protestations he hurried to the Achund (Priest and Judge), and corroborated by his companions, stated to him that the maiden wished to embrace Islamism. The Achund immediately caused the girl, who had meanwhile been concealed, to be sought for at her parents' house; the messengers treated the parents most cruelly, and their daughter was dragged before the Achund. 

At the end of two days the prescribed purifications were concluded, and the girl begged for permission to walk on the terrace in order to enjoy the evening air,  She was allowed, and she threw herself down from the terrace and fractured her skull. The Persians, who knew the cause of this suicide heaped the most dreadful insults on the dead body, hacked it to pieces, and left it in the streets. Only during the night did the Jews venture to collect the remains, and bury them. 
Shiraz continued to be viciously antisemitic in the decades after this. Wikipedia summarizes: "There has been a significant Jewish population in Iran for 2,500 years. Pogroms have not been unknown. In 1892, several Jews were murdered in Shiraz. Twenty Jews were murdered and three synagogues were burned down in 1897. Pogroms, forced conversion and expulsion swept Zarqon, Lar, Jahrom, Darab, Nobendigan, Sarvestan and Kazerun.Jamshid Sedaghat, a historian in Shiraz, has said attacks happened annually during the late 19th century, finally ending as a result of pressure from Europe. The last of these occurred in 1910" - which was a blood libel that resulted in the murder of 12 Jews and the entire Jewish quarter devastated.


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