Sunday, March 15, 2009

Side Trip to Iran: A Real Journey to Biblical Times

To most Jews around the world, the Purim story happened somewhere far away in an unknown city with the fairy-tale sounding name of Shushan. But what if you knew Shushan as a real city as close as New York or Boston? What if Esther grew up in Chicago or you could visit her grave in Washington, D.C.?

Purim makes Iranians proud because Esther comes from their country. Esther, meaning 'star' in Persian [Ashtar or Akhtar], was beautiful, brave and smart enough to know how to live in two worlds. This is wisdom.

Esther and Mordechai’s tomb is located in the crowded city of Hamadan, where Avicenna is also buried.

Esther and Mordechai’s Shrine

The door, a 6-8 inch thick piece of solid gray granite with a rough surface, opens into a small anteroom. A soot-blackened glass separates visitors from a space designated for candle lighting. The plaster walls have Hebrew inscriptions.

An arch with plaster ornaments directs visitors into a high ceiling square room whose walls are decorated with Hebrew reliefs describing Esther and Mordechai' origins.

In the center, the two beautifully carved wood coffers stand five feet high, draped in shimmering vibrant color cloth, one reading “Ester;” the other “Mordekhay.” The original graves are located deeper below in the ground.

Esther and Mordechai’s Tombs

Like other historic monuments, the tomb has been victim to theft and vandalism. One surviving treasure is a magnificent 300-year-old Torah that is now housed in a modern cabinet.

Mordechai and Esther are not alone. There are also other historic Biblical tombs in Iran.

The prophet Daniel (Damal-e Nabi) (c. 540 b.c.e.) was born in Shushan (Susa), and prophesied in the decade 545-35 b.c.e. The 22nd book of the Bible bears his name, and his tomb is located in Shoush.

Tomb of Prophet Daniel

The prophet Habakuk (c. 600 b.c.e.) descended from Jewish exiles in Babylon. The 8th book of the Bible bears his name. A shrine is dedicated to him in Tuy-serkan, western Iran.

Tomb of Prophet Hayghugh (or Habakuk?)

*** UPDATE: I haven't ever been to Tuyserkan but it seems the photos below belong to another biblical site NOT the prophet Habakuk in Iran. I did a small research and I found that these photos may belong to another tomb named after Prophet Habakuk in Galilee, Israel.

Tomb of Prophet Habakuk (Galilee, Israel?)

Pasargadae is the first capital of Achaemenian empire. Achaemenians under the rule of Cyrus The Great established the Persian empire. Cyrus is highly regarded as a King who favored all faiths including the Judaism equally. When he conquered the empire Babylonia in 538 B.C., he freed all Jews. Cyrus because of his respect for local customs and religions of different parts of his vase empire, is highly regarded as a liberator, rather than a conqueror. Pasargadae has always been an attractive place for the Jewish community from all over the world to visit. A little northeast of Pasargadae, is a large stone platform on a hill known as the Takht-e- Madar-e- Soleiman (Throne of the Mother of Solomon). Jews also visit this place to pay their respect.

Tomb of Cyrus the Great

Throne of the Mother of Solomon

Throne of the Mother of Solomon


Photos by: (Fariborz and Friends)


Dina said...

I never knew about all this.
Thank you!

Fahad said...

Hi Meead,
see some pictures of another Jewish holy site (of Sarah bat Asher) near Esfahan. I took them in January this year.
While Jews were living with Iranians in peace for centuries, the relationship became worse during the reign of (Shi'a) Safavid and Qajar Shahs. I have read recently an interesting dissertation by Daniel Tsadik about numerous incidents especially in the 2nd half of the 19th century.
In particular what you call 'vandalism' in Hamadan was almost pogroms.

Meead S. said...

Thank you Fahad for your informative comment. Well, today community of Iranians (at least me and all those people who I know) are quite respecful to Jews and love them as a minority. I've never seen a person who say something bad about them or even care if someone is a minor.

The problem of this country is that not always its governments do or say whatever the people want to do or say. I believe even during Safavid and Qajar dynasties, the majority of Iranians disagree with them regarding what you mentioned as 'pogrom'. I honestly do not deny the existence of some people who may hate Jews just because they are ignorant. Anyway, I don't think if there is any nation in the world who haven't had an experience of discrimination against their minorities during their history at least once. This is what I like to call it 'lessons learned' for today world.

Iranians in my generation who will probably lead the country in next couple of years and will be replaced with current leaders, will definitely act differenly.

Meead S. said...

Dina, can you read those Hebrew words? I have no idea what they are saying. I think this is your turn to translate those things. Thanks.

Dina said...

Sorry I've been busy for a few days and not much time for computer. But I'll get back to you soon with some translations.
I look forward to your generation's leadership.

Dina said...

Hey Meead, this would make a terrific post for the "That's My World Tuesday" meme. You just have to go there today and paste your URL and your name and country in the "Mr. Linky" sign-up box. And maybe leave a comment to tell the group that this is your first time there. The readers will love to see these "exotic" places!

Sylvia K said...

This is fascinating and your photos are terrific! I'm glad Dina encouraged you to post this here for us to read! Thanks! It is an interesting world!

ChrisC and JonJ said...

What a fascinating post!I learned so much.And the photos are wonderful,too.Thank you for posting that.

Me and my puppies said...

Great series of photos. So interesting to see different parts of the world via our blogs. Makes the is a smaller place.

Babooshka said...

This is fascinating. I had read of the Jewsish connection on Dina's blog and to read yours and tie it all together is even more fascinating. Beauiful images too.

B Squared said...

I understand Khatami decided not to run. That is a shame. We had high hopes for him too. Love the sentiment you expressed today.

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for the education!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

This might be my favorite all time myworld post. Thanks for reminding me that the biblicl stories are based on real people.

Tabib said...

Beautiful photo and very informative.

Indrani said...

Hey, this is one great post. I was watching wide eyed all the shots and lapping up the info given. I have heard so much of this country and keep hearing about it in news even today,so was curious to see the country mentioned in MWT list. I am glad Dina encouraged you. Thanks again!

J said...

Such an interesting post. People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that Iran is one of the countries that I'd most like to go to but how could anyone resist such fascinating history and beguiling landscapes?

Arija said...

A wonderful biblical post with excellent photos to illustrate. Interesting and well written.

Meead S. said...

I'm somehow upset that IRAN is unfortunately the most misunderstood country in the world today.

When switching between media channels that perpetually hold piping-hot debates between their guests talking, not clashing about Iran's nuclear issue, you can see pictures of spacious, dry deserts with a sequence of camels running sluggishly, demolished buildings adjacent to the slums of downtown, ballistic missiles being test-fired, multitudinous hordes chanting political slogans while rallying in the covered streets and afterwards, some interlinked strings of nuclear power plants being shown from the aerial view.

What kind of perception one might catch from this partial and subjective image-doctoring? Undoubtedly, they would be convinced that Iran should be the most terrific and scaremonger chain in the "axis of evil" and full of terrorists, atomic bomb arsenals and a forgotten land, as well.

Less people are informed that Iran is the same country of "Persia" with thousands of years of ancient history and civilization, a monarchy that someday was gaining dominance over India to Egypt as the largest territory of all times, where Cyrus the Great has flourished and where the most remarkable personalities of science, literature and arts came from; Rumi (Mevlana) and Khawrizmi to Rhazes and Avicenna, Ferdowsi and Hafez to Khayyam and Rudaki.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC.

Hilda said...

This is such an interesting and fascinating post! Especially since the book I am currently reading is about ancient civilizations and I'm in the Near East section. This makes everything so real! It boggles the mind that ruins and relics from such ancient civilizations still survive!

Eki Akhwan said...

What an illuminating post, Meead. It's fascinating! Thanks for sharing this.

Yaelian said...

What a fascinating post! Thanks so much:-)

richies said...

I appreciate you informative post. Probably very few Americans are aware these things even exist in Iran. We are only presented with the negative.

An Arkies Musings

spacedlaw said...

Very interesting!
I am surprised by the apparent simplicity of Cyrus' grave (although what is left today might be very different with what was build all these centuries ago).

Kim said...

I'm just catching up with your posts on a rainy Saturday morning here. I hope you are surviving the gray dreariness outside. It seems that despite the promise of Nowuz a week ago, we are still not seeing much sun and warmth. I hope at least some colorful spring flowers have popped up on campus and around town to add some cheer to the atmosphere for you. I hope the coming months and their spectacular blue skies surprise and delight you. I'm enjoying all your photos of your adventures and discoveries. It looks like your day at the coast was misty and cold, but I hope you had some fun.

This post was especially wonderful to read. I love learning more history, and this was really a treat to see all the photos. I would feel so frustrated if I were you, facing such common ignorance among the rest of us in the American public, even many in the college-educated public who know very little of ancient or even not long ago history. You keep informing our ignorance and we will keep growing in understanding. You are just one guy, but your relationships with so many you meet in person and touch with your blog will send out more ripples of understanding. Where does a poor grad student find the time to be a world ambassador?! :-) I hope it doesn't wear on you too greatly to play such a role among your friends here. We must seem like a big bunch of doofuses being led around by disinformation. A lot of Americans felt that was the case, and hopefully this change in leadership here will begin to rectify some of the damage this manipulative approach to information has caused.

Hey, tangential thought here, but it might interest you to know my great-grandfather's name was Cyrus, so Cyrus the Great, for whom he was named, has always interested me. It was great to see where his tomb is.

Well, I've been thinking of you, but not much time to visit or comment. Now my school term is over and it is also spring break at my work, so I hope to keep up regularly again. And I was excited to read recently that you may pursue your PhD at Cal. We lived in Berkeley for 20 years and I know you will LOVE it there. Best to you, and happy weekend!

PS, This is too funny. . .my word verification to leave a comment is PERIAN. . .one letter away from Persian! -K