This week marked the traditional Iranian or Persian new year known as Nowruz. This holiday, which dates back thousands of years, not only highlights the rich history of the Persian people but it can also highlight the shared experiences with the Jewish people. In fact, the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates a miraculous event in Jewish history that occurred in ancient Persia is believed by some to be adopted from Nowruz.
Coinciding with the vernal equinox, Nowruz is the most celebrated holiday in Iran. Many Nowruz traditions resemble traditions associated with Jewish holidays, highlighting shared values between the two peoples. For example Spring Cleaning, or Khouneh Tekouni in Farsi, is done in preparation for Nowruz, much like how Jews traditionally clean their houses before the springtime holiday of Passover.
Bonfires are also a Nowruz tradition in Persian culture. During the Nowruz period on the night known as Chahārshanbe Suri, bonfires are lit all across Iran much the same way Israel is aglow with bonfires during the springtime holiday of Lag BaOmer.
A traditional table setting known as Haft Sin is how most Iranians feast during the holiday. This traditional setting features seven specific food items all of which have a symbolism associated with them. The Jewish Passover Seder dinner features a similar plate with six specific food items all of which have a traditional symbolism associated with them.
The many similarities and shared values between the historic Jewish and Persian communities led to thousands of years of friendship between these two ancient peoples. Only since the recent rise of the extremist Ayatollah regime during the Iranian revolution of 1979 have their existed tensions between these two communities. The extremist regime which rose to power immediately cut off the country’s previously warm ties with the Jewish State of Israel and began to actively and violent act against it.
Although tensions today between Iran and Israel are perhaps at an all time high due the Islamic regime’s constant saber rattling and violent language, the people of these two great cultures could use this opportunity to focus on their many similarities. If the people can focus on their historic friendship perhaps it can cause the extremists rulers of Iran to tone down their rhetoric, hopefully leading to a more constructive atmosphere that can prevent an outbreak of violence while fostering international cooperation.